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Farnborough’s Grade I-listed wind tunnels to open to public

A pair of Grade I-listed wind tunnels at Farnborough Airport are to be opened to the public for the first time next year

The wind tunnels, once used by the RAF to test the Hawker Hurricane fighter plane which served in World War II, are housed in two buildings known as R52 - built in 1917 and listed in 2003 - and Q121 - built in 1935 and listed in 1996.

The site has lain dormant for more than 50 years, but both buildings – as well as the nearby airship hangar – will be opened to the public for six weeks from June 2014 as part of an art installation to coincide with the Farnborough International Airshow.

The art exhibition will be curated by Salma Tuqan, contemporary Middle East curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The project is still at a planning stage but Tuqan said she wanted the final exhibition to include sound, light and performance, to create a ‘sensory experience’ for visitors.

Photo: Jay McLaughlin

Photo: Jay McLaughlin

‘The historical importance of the wind tunnels makes the site quite unique as an opportunity for artists,’ said Tuqan. ‘It offers the possibility of producing work in response both to the buildings’ heritage as a site of aerodynamic experimentation but also architecturally.’

She added: ‘We have had a number of artists visit the site already [and] each has been astounded by the vastness of the space while appreciating the history of these buildings. One of the challenges for the practitioners will be to find a way to intervene in a way which doesn’t overpower the buildings and their features but respects them.’

Visiting artists have been astounded by the vastness of the space

‘I find the secrecy that once surrounded these sites extremely intriguing, and am interested in how the general public and those living in and around Farnborough will react to the spaces.’

The Wind Tunnel Project will open on 9 June 2014 for six weeks, and will take place every two years.

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