Blaze by Ian McChesney

Fabricated in gold anodised aluminium, Blaze is an artwork for the A66 designed to catch light in unusual ways, creating a bright sculptural form.

Designed by Ian McChesney , Blaze has been created to populate the disparate roadside verges of the A66 in Middlesbrough—this is the first phase of the piece which can be implemented at numerous locations along the roadside. The A66 currently passes through the centre of Middlesbrough and for many drivers it is their only viewpoint of the town. Blaze was conceived as a unifying treatment to the roadside which would gradually emerge along further stretches gradually providing Middlesbrough A66 with its own unique identity.

A series of anodised aluminium staves are set in the ground in long arrays which give the impression of giant forms in the landscape. The arrays are arranged in layers so that the shape of the piece transforms as people pass by. Fabricated in gold anodised aluminium, Blaze is designed to catch the light in unusual ways creating a bright sculptural form along the often dreary dual carriageway landscape.
A series of anodised aluminium staves are set in the ground in long arrays
which give the impression of giant forms in the landscape
A series of anodised aluminium staves are set in the ground in long arrays which give the impression of giant forms in the landscape
Blaze originated with a proposal to create a gateway feature at the Cargo Fleet Roundabout on the A66 in Middlesbrough. The adjacent authourity, Redcar, had installed a series of roundabout sculptures with which this scheme was originally to have been aligned.

Middlesbrough Borough Council working in partnership with Tees Valley Arts, Arts Council North East, and advised by Christian Barnes, took the view that the project should be developed as a spatial design concept. It should consist of an integrated landscape approach that might be able to extend beyond the Cargo Fleet roundabout populating other parts of the A66 corridor. The Cargo Project Background Fleet roundabout would be just the first prototype of the scheme. A range of other sites have also been identified for the treatment including land adjacent to Trinity Crescent, the approach to Will Alsop's Middlehaven development and the western approaches to the town.

An RIBA competition was held in 2007 to find a designer of the scheme which was subsequently won by Ian McChesney who proposed Blaze. The piece was subsequently developed with engineers Atelier One and fabricator Chris Brammall Ltd.
Elevation
Elevation
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.
The form of Blaze was developed using simple array tools within Rhinoceros software providing the basic layout and form.
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.
Blaze by Ian McChesney, an artwork for the A66 in Middlesbrough
Blaze by Ian McChesney, an artwork for the A66 in Middlesbrough
Designer : Ian McChesney
Engineer : Atelier One
Fabricator : Chris Brammall Ltd
Client : Middlesbrough Council
Contract duration : 9 months
Installation time : 10 days
Cost : £116,000
Blaze by Ian McChesney, an artwork for the A66 in Middlesbrough
Blaze by Ian McChesney, an artwork for the A66 in Middlesbrough
Digital measuring devices were used to
set the angle of each stave individually
Digital measuring devices were used to set the angle of each stave individually
Blaze by Ian McChesney, an artwork for the A66 in Middlesbrough
Blaze by Ian McChesney, an artwork for the A66 in Middlesbrough

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