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McChesney finishes roundabout sculpture

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Ian McChesney has completed this ‘prototype’ artwork at the Cargo Fleet Roundabout on the A66 in Middlesbrough.

The £116,000 Blaze project features 472 aluminium staves and could be rolled out around the region’s roads.

The scheme was won following an RIBA competition in 2007 (AJ 25.04.2007) and was developed with engineers Atelier One and fabricator Chris Brammall.

Watch a video of the completed artwork here.

  • Blaze is 35m long by 35m wide by 4m tall.
  • There are 472 individual staves of aluminium in Blaze.
  • There is a total of 165 linear meters of staves in Blaze.
  • The sculpture contains over 1.5 km of aluminium tubing.
  • The cost of Blaze was £116,000 to fabricate and install.
  • For the cost of Blaze we could build just 8 metres of motorway.


The architect’s view - technical information

The form of Blaze was developed using simple array tools within Rhinoceros software providing the basic layout and form. The model was then rationalised and analysed using Grasshopper software which allowed the production of spreadsheets containing all the data needed to manufacture the staves, including exact coordinate position, lengths and XY angles. This information was made available at tender stage meaning that fabricators knew exactly the number of staves and their precise length.

Original proposals included a spring at the base of each stave allowing the whole piece to move with the wind but it was felt that this was too complicated. Calculations illustrated that the staves would move a short distance in the wind anyway. Calculations were correct and Blaze can be seen to move significantly in windy weather - one further unexpected phenomenon are the strange sounds that are produced as wind passes through the sculpture.

Blaze was fabricated and installed by Chris Brammall who helped to develop the stave mountings. It would be important for the angle of each stave to
remain adjustable when installing on site, and so to allow for this, Chris developed a pivoting bracket detail allowing minute adjustments to be made
before the staves were clamped in place.

The brackets holding the staves were welded to long curved baseplates which were anchored to concrete strip footings. Once the piece was installed in position and all the angles set, the pivoting brackets were welded up to prevent future movement. Installation of the sculpture on site was completed in about ten days.
About 1.5 km of aluminium tubing was used in the piece allowing us to specify a non standard section extruded specially for the project. The staves
have an anodised finish which worked out to be cheaper and more attractive than polyester powder coating. Anodizing increases corrosion resistance and
wear resistance, while providing the opportunity to introduce a colour to the finish of the aluminium.
Once installed, the bases of the staves were buried under a layer of pebbles contained within timber edgings with topsoil reinstated alongside. The ground will be rotavated and seeded in the spring.

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