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‘blaze’, an architectural sculpture designed by ian mcchesney
image © peter cook

The work of british architect ian mcchesney, ‘blaze’ is an outdoor sculpture designed for installation along disparate segments of highway in middlesbrough, UK. the first construction phase of the project has seen a sculpture roughly 35-meters square and 4-meters tall erected along the A66 motorway. ‘blaze’ is composed of 472 staves of aluminum, positioned at successive angles to one another in four undulating curves. seen from different perspectives, the segments appear to create crosses and other gridded patterns, an effect enhanced by the fact that the staves are not fixed and rigid but instead shift slightly with the wind. the sculpture is composed of gold anodized aluminum, designed to catch the sunlight in unusual ways to add interest to the relatively desolate landscape.

we imagined a piece that could pop up and disappear as you drive [along]‘, mcchesney explains: ‘as if it were following you on your journey– like a kind of traveling companion, blazing through town.’

assembled over the course of 10 days, ‘blaze’ cost 116,000 pounds to fabricate and install: equivalent to the cost of building just 8-meters of new highway.

full view
image © peter cook

the gold anodized aluminum staves are designed to catch sunlight in unusual ways
image © peter cook

image © peter cook

detail on staves
image © peter cook

image © peter cook

seen from different angles, the four ‘waves’ of segments create diverse patterns with one another
image © peter cook

image © peter cook

image © peter cook

view looking head-on at one of the sections
image © peter cook

‘blaze’ was the winning proposal in a 2007 competition held by the royal institute of british architects (RIBA), responding to the call by the middlesbrough borough council, tees valley arts, and arts council north east to develop a spatial design concept that integrates the cargo fleet roundabout traffic circle, with the possibility of being extended to other future sites.

the sculpture by sunset
image © peter cook

construction: preparing the foundation
image © chris brammall

construction: installing the staves
image © chris brammall

construction: detail on base
image © chris brammall

construction: the precise variance of angle at which each stave is placed required careful attention
image © chris brammall

construction: welding
image © chris brammall

concept diagram of full sculpture

construction plan, aerial view

short section plan

side elevation plan

video walkthrough of the project

project info:

contract duration: 9 months
installation time: 10 days
client: middlesbrough council
funding: one northeast and the government’s local authority business growth incentive reward grant
client advisors: tees valley arts and christian barnes of vista projects
designer: ian mcchesney
engineer: atelier one
fabricator: chris brammall ltd