Searchlight Beacons & Pod Seating
This sculpture commission forms part of the Thames Gateway Development and the strategic relevance of London Southend Airport (LSA) being one of the six main airports servicing London. LSA is projected to increase passenger numbers to two million by 2020, guaranteeing widespread and global exposure to the sculpture and consequently the (largely untold) historic legacy of the site.
My research involved exploring the history of the airport throughout the 20th Century and its strategic importance in two World Wars, as well as its peacetime role in the present day. My research examined how this untold history could be deployed within the framework of the sculpture, as well as a seating design that linked the terminal building to other areas of the airport site.
My early research identified wartime criss-crossing searchlight beams as an idea for the sculpture, simultaneously interpreted through the use of stainless steel as (celebratory) “beacons”, heralding a new enterprise era for LSA. Three different types of aircraft that helped define the role of LSA, in wartime as well as peacetime, populate the surfaces of the light beams stainless steel surfaces. These silhouettes of aircraft are laser cut from the stainless steel, and illuminated internally with LED lighting.
The development of the sculpture is characterised by traditional and digital methods of manufacture. The positioning of the crossover intersection points of the light beams was established using MAYA 3D modelling software which enabled the laser cutting of the cone forms to precisely locate on three separate points of intersection. The fusion of digital and traditional methods of design & making was central to my successful Bridging the Gaps Plug-In EPSRC project, which explored cross departmental approaches to design & build cultures within Loughborough University.
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Evenly populating the surface of the sculpture with aircraft that met seamlessly at the folded seam of each cone was part of 3D optimized topography-modeling research that facilitated the placement and scale of each aircraft onto the three separate cone forms.
How to shape the cones without the steel buckling was also a problem that was eventually solved using brake press technology, since the airplane perforations punctuating the steel surfaces meant that folding the cones on rollers was not possible.
The Pod-Seats are derived from studies I made from early 20th Century airplane tail fins, which I was attracted to initially because they bore distinct similarities to contour forms I had earlier been experimenting with, which were based on garment template patterns. The Pod Seats are made from granite and reflect the surface texture and colour of the surrounding architecture.
The sculpture and seating designs act as landmark and way finding devices, as well a statement that reflects on the history of Southend, linking the 20th Century to the present day.