KENLEY CLOSE TOWER

 

Sleeping aboard a jumbo jet high over the Atlantic Ocean, Protec's Seiji Moriuchi was feeling no such stress while making his way to Liverpool, England that same afternoon.

The city best known as birthplace of The Beatles would today be known for the demise of Kenley Close, a towering 22-story apartment building near the center of town, and Moriuchi's primary role was to photograph the "blowdown" from several angles for Yorkshire-based NADC-member Controlled Demolition Group, Ltd. (CDG).

CDG's Managing Director, Darren Palin, had recently signed on with documentary producers for the creation of a 13-part television series on explosive demolition to be broadcast on a British network, and Europe's busiest structural blasting contractor then subcontracted Protec for their expertise in photographing explosive events.

Although the team has worked on dozens of international TV programs over the years, Protec typically performs multi-angle documentation for "less sensational" reasons, explained Moriuchi. "Our primary goal is to capture a contractor's work in ways that will help allay the concerns of local community leaders where new projects are being proposed. After all, there's nothing quite as reassuring as popping in a video containing a few dozen similar implosions and simply saying, 'It will look just like this.'" Moriuchi also noted that the videotapes are occasionally relied upon to settle performance disputes or damage allegations, and blasters scrutinize the images as part of their internal performance review process. "With five or six well-placed cameras, we can help answer most questions rather quickly."

However, this day was all glamour, and Moriuchi immediately set about planning for the most dramatic images possible. His first objective was to meet up with Controlled Demolition's blaster, Mick Williams, and pepper him with questions. Williams supplied information about the delay sequence, proposed drop zone, and which adjacent liabilities posed the largest concern. Moriuchi then traversed the blast zone to visualize exactly how the building would collapse.
His first camera location quickly became evident. "We call it a 'high-impact energy shot,'" explained Moriuchi. "It exposes the video camera to considerable risk, but when installed properly, the footage is often more breathtaking than any other angle." He placed a tripod close to the front face of the structure and anchored its legs with sandbags, then modified the camera with a special panoramic lens, protective plexiglass and plenty of heavy protection around the main housing.

To compliment the close ground-based position, Moriuchi placed a second camera high up in an adjacent apartment building to provide an overview of the entire site. He then scouted four additional positions to offset the two primary angles. "We prefer to keep some tricks of the trade secret, especially since we've lost a few cameras to learn them," said Moriuchi. "But safe to say our goal is to capture the event with a healthy cross-section of descriptive views."

The final hours leading up to the blast were a flurry of activity for Moriuchi's team, as they scurried to install and trigger unmanned cameras throughout the security zone while communicating with blasting personnel via 2-way radio. When all was established as "clear," CDG's Dick Green sounded the final warning siren and initiated the countdown.

With hundreds of spectators and temporarily displaced neighbors looking on, a staccato of muffled blasts preceded the building's slow descent into a powdery cloud of white dust, cascading from west to east directly onto its own footprint. "A textbook job for all involved," commented Moriuchi after the blast, "not to mention the unusual bonus of a sunny day in England. We couldn't have hoped for better results."
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