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Case Study – The Swarovski Tree & The Enchanted Garden


Project Overview:

Simply put, Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building holds a special place in the hearts of the community as a truly iconic destination at Christmas time. In 2015, it already had an established reputation for providing Sydney with one of its most spectacular Christmas displays each year, enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.


It was our honour, privilege and responsibility to help to elevate The QVB’s Christmas experience to an entirely new level by delivering on all 3 tendered projects – the Design, Construction and Installation/Dismantle of a show stopping Christmas tree (“The Swarovski Tree”), Santa Experience (“The Enchanted Garden”) and centre-wide decorations.


Project Brief:

The QVB’s brief was to deliver new Christmas decorations in line with their positioning, to maintain the iconic status of the QVB Christmas experience, create additional ambience in the building and to enhance the customer experience. In short, the QVB wanted to be known as the best and most recognisable Christmas display in Sydney.


An iconic tree was central to the design. It needed to include touches of “old world charm” and Christmas tradition, while creating a unique and new-to-market idea that would differentiate The QVB from its competitors. The tree needed to drive traffic and sales to The QVB and drive traffic vertically throughout the building. And with an established partnership in place with Swarovski, crystal elements needed to be integrated into the design.


The brief also included the need for a best-in-class Santa Experience that was immersive and engaging for families, making them want to return to The QVB year after year.


Our Approach:

Chas Clarkson designed and produced a suite of sophisticated and stylish decorations for The QVB, with premium finishes that complemented and were sensitive to the heritage nature of the building. The Swarovski Tree became a national Christmas icon, incorporating over 82,000 Swarovski crystals and 65,000 individual LED twinkle lights. A crystal canopy under the tree on the Ground Floor mesmerised visitors and drove them to the upper levels to discover more. A programmed light show created sequences of illuminated patterns from the base to the tip. The spectacular result embodied both the QVB brand and stately splendour of the iconic space.


Our vision for Santa’s Enchanted Garden saw it fully immersed with an overhead floral canopy and a whimsical interior of discovery and surprise. And every balustrade within the building was adorned with magical twinkling lights that delighted customers day and night.


The Chas Clarkson Team collaborated closely with the QVB Team right through the design development and production processes, ensuring that the challenges associated with working within a heritage building were navigated with care and professionalism.



The sensitive heritage nature associated with The QVB posed several challenges. One of those was how to design a 20-plus-metre tree that could be safely and efficiently installed over multiple levels. The answer was an engineering breakthrough. The Chas Clarkson Team created a tree frame that was strong enough to be completely installed from the Ground Floor. Using an overhead winch system, installation began with the tree top star, with each section raised and new sections brought in and under for attachment. The frame was also designed with internal ladders for climbing. The result made the tree much quicker to install than traditional trees and able to be easily maintained from the inside.


Another challenge was to create an immersive Santa Experience with limited floor space, leaving enough room for photography equipment to be securely stored. Our design allowed the set to be compact but impactful through the economical use of space. The public thoroughfares of The QVB were not air-conditioned, so we needed to find a way to keep Santa cool in the hot Australian summer. The solution was to disguise evaporative coolers within the set by encasing them in themed props. Set pieces also needed to be able to break down into manageable components in order to be transported effectively through the building from truck drop off points.


The Result:

The end result for The QVB was a stunning and engaging world-class installation that was both classic and contemporary. The Swarovski Tree put The QVB on the world map of must-see Christmas destinations. Santa’s Enchanted Garden created an institution for families all over Australia to visit time and time again. Overall, the Chas Clarkson’s Christmas concept for The QVB drove foot traffic to the building, flowing onto retail sales, media exposure, social media engagement and PR opportunities.