15/08/2013 - 08:35

Swarbrick takes new direction

15/08/2013 - 08:35


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Swarbrick takes new direction
CROSSOVER: Glenn Swarbrick with the latest sculpture built at his workshop in Henderson. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Adapting to change is often considered one of the keys to business success, and yacht maker turned sculptor and builder, Glenn Swarbrick, has it in spades.

Like most business people, Mr Swarbrick has seen demand for his products wax and wane over many years.

His response has been more innovative than most, applying his skills in fibreglass composites and computerised machining to new applications like sculptures, pedestrian bridges, hotel awnings and large structural canopies.

Working from a dusty factory at Henderson, Mr Swarbrick’s recent projects include an eight-metre tall sculpture that will be transported to Sydney for installation at Mirvac’s Rhodes property development.

It’s the fourth large-scale sculpture Mr Swarbrick has fabricated; the first was the billowing cape aspect of the Saint George sculpture outside Perth’s namesake cathedral.

He describes that as his “first leap out of the normal realm”.

It was a change triggered by the downturn in the yacht market, though he also emphasises the continuity in his work.

In particular, Mr Swarbrick said the skills and construction techniques used to build strong, lightweight yachts were equally applicable to his new projects.

 “It’s not that far away from how we would build a sailing vessel,” he said, surveying a 22-metre pedestrian bridge nearing completion in his workshop.

Using traditional pre-cast concrete, the bridge would weigh 26 tonnes. Using fibreglass composite, it weighs just three tonnes.

Mr Swarbrick believes that delivers a big competitive advantage, with transport and installation of his bridge, which will span the Canning River, made immeasurably easier.

He said many people, in Perth and elsewhere, were starting to recognise the advantage of composites.

Boeing’s Dreamliner aircraft, for instance, is made of composites, in contrast to the traditional use of composites with aluminium in other aircraft.

Mr Swarbrick’s upcoming projects include large awnings that will be used in the redevelopment of the Rendezvous Hotel in Scarborough.

Another opportunity he is pursuing is construction of roof sections, measuring 40 metres by six metres, for a planned train station.

The recent spate of innovative projects is not a complete change of style for Mr Swarbrick, who counts motor racing among his passions.

“I’ve always been involved in other things, not just yachts,” he said.

A decade ago, he won a big contract to manufacture fibreglass shower recesses, to be installed in transportable accommodation for mining camps.

In more recent years he has worked with a number of sub-sea oil and gas and marine services companies, including Fugro, Matrix Composites and TMT, providing workshop and machining services and assisting with R&D work on new products.

Mr Swarbrick said that building up a wide network was one reason he had been able to win work from such a diverse range of clients.


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