A £116,000 sculpture designed to captivate motorists heading to Tees Valley has been created by London-based architect Ian McChesney

Blaze by Ian McChesney
Blaze by Ian McChesney

The Blaze, a series of anodised aluminium staves that stand upright alongside the A66 in Middlesbrough, was developed to provide an eye-catching vista for drivers. Some 472 gold-fabricated, light-capturing staves, measuring 35m long, 35m wide and 4m tall, were arranged in rows to create a shape-changing illusion for passersby.

“Blaze is designed to catch the light in unusual ways creating a bright sculptural form along the often dreary dual carriageway landscape,” said McChesney, who secured the contract after winning a Royal Institute British Architects competition to find a designer for the project in 2007. The piece was developed with engineers Atelier One and fabricator Chris Brammal following a tender process.

The sculpture’s basic layout was created and analysed using array tools in Rhinoceros and Grasshopper software. Spreadsheets detailing how to build the staves were then produced and issued at tender stage to fabricators.

In early designs, springs were included at the base of each stave to allow them to move freely, but later removed for being too complicated. Further analysis showed the staves would move slightly anyway in windy conditions.

For easy installation, all staves were fitted with pivot brackets to allow quick angle adjustments when clamping them into place. The brackets holding the staves were welded to long curved base plates, which were anchored to strip footings. When the staves were in place, the pivoting brackets were welded up to prevent movement, while the bases were buried under a layer of pebbles within timber edgings.

The Blaze forms part of a bigger project to transform areas along the A66 corridor into visually arresting landscapes. Land adjacent to Trinity Crescent, near the approach to Will Alsop’s Middlehaven development and on western routes to Middlesbrough will have similar sculptures.

To watch a video of the sculpture in situ, click here



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