Monumental movement A performing arts building at Stockton-on-Tees plays its own dynamic part in the streetscape . PHOTOGRAPHS BY RICHARD WILSON
'I wanted to enlist the architecture in some way as a major part of the sculpture and to challenge the concept of architecture as something static and rigid'. For the artist Richard Wilson, this was the starting point for a rotating sculpture, the 'Over Easy', which is set into the facade of the Arc, the new centre for the performing arts at Stockton- on-Tees.
The new 5,000m2 centre, designed by the Arts Team at rhwl, cost £8.5 million, mostly funded by the Lottery, and is part of a regeneration programme for this grim and depressed market town. It contains a fan-shaped theatre, a cinema, a studio theatre, dance studios, bars, a restaurant, conference rooms and a health club.
The site forms the corner of a crossroads, one block from Stockton's main shopping street. The building presents a bold face to its public - a curved glass facade, three storeys high, through which the public activities of the centre - bars, cafe and restaurant - are clearly visible, especially at night. An overhanging flat roof 'lid' tops the glass; its shape is reflected in a brise-soleil of horizontal louvres at third-floor slab level.
The glazed curve is set between walls of solid render, painted a rich egg-yolk yellow. On the west side the solid wall makes a conventional vertical butt joint with the glass; on the south-west the wall takes a gentle slope, following the line of the main staircase which is set against the facade. It is at these junctions - of sloping rendered wall, glass curtain wall and brise-soleil - that Wilson has located his sculpture.
Wilson's sculpture is an 8m diameter disc, part glazed, part rendered, so that it appears to be part of the facade. But it moves. It moves clockwise and anti-clockwise, at the same speed as the minute hand of a clock and almost indiscernible to the naked eye so that, after a time, the relationship between solid and transparent is altered, taking the viewer by surprise and confounding the sense of stasis and equilibrium. The disc can be seen from the inside as visitors ascend the stair, adding an extra dimension of movement. As the disc moves it takes with it a piece of the steel brise- soleil, creating additional visual confusion.
Wilson's work typically confounds the senses of sight, touch and equilibrium. He was approached to participate in the project by the architect who knew his work through the 1996 installation 'Jamming Gears' at the Serpentine Gallery. Wilson made a maquette of the idea, which explained the concept to the client and the building team. For the design of the disc Wilson appointed his own structural engineers, Price & Myers, with whom he had worked several times before, notably on the Water Table (aj 17.9.99).
The sculpture is formed of two main elements - an outer ring which is fixed to the building and an inner disc which moves. The disc and ring were formed from a series of curved elements bolted together - welding would have risked the possibility of distortion. The ring is braced by rhs mullions and transoms, and by an rhs cross-beam following the line of the stairs.
The upper two-thirds of the disc are filled with a double-glazed aluminium curtain wall system fixed to the mullions and transoms. The double-glazed units are pressure-plated and silicone bonded to prevent movement during rotation and to ensure that every joint is weatherproof. The lower third is clad with an acrylic render system applied to an insulated ply backing.
Price and Myers
David Metcalfe Associates
ARCHITECT, ARTS CENTRE:
The Arts Team at rhwl
sculpture fabricator & installer Commercial Systems International (csi)