- Environment & Infrastructure
- Strategic consulting
- Specialist consulting
- The Living City
- Happold Consulting
Some colleagues and I recently attended the opening of a wonderful little project on the Tyne in Newcastle. The project is a floating artwork opposite the Baltic called ~Flow, and forms part of the 'Artists taking the lead' programme of the Cultural Olympiad, a series of 12 Arts Council funded works around the country commissioned to coincide with the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
A collaboration by Owl Project and Ed Carter, ~Flow is a floating structure comprising a moored platform, a large timber waterwheel and a modest timber building. Tidal action on the Tyne turns the waterwheel, generating power to operate a series of unusual instruments inside the wheelhouse.
These hard to describe instruments were designed by the Owl Project, an extraordinary arts collective. If you imagine a cross between scientific devices measuring salinity and turbidity crossed with musical instruments constructed in timber you get close.
Buro Happold became involved in this project through a collaboration with Nicky Kirk (yes that is Flow on the ice cream wafers), a talented young achitect who always seems to be involved in a very diverse range of projects. Our formal client was Ed Carter, an inspirational arts producer based in Newcastle.
To me this project is almost the perfect case study for why a big, well established practice like Buro Happold would hang out with a one-an architectural practice. Sure, the fee was small and was hardly going to make a significant impact on our bottom line, but let’s look at the other benefits.
Consider Andrew Walker and Tim Denton, our structural engineer and marine engineer for the project. ~Flow provided a welcome diversion for these guys, both of whom were involved in larger projects offering little in the way of light relief.
We’ve had exposure to some wonderful and quirky people through this project. Take the boat builders as an example; Nick Spurr and his team from Amble Boat Company did a great job building ~Flow and bent over backwards to help the project through some artistic and financial turbulence. As though that weren’t enough, his ice-cream making offshoot Spurreli (you couldn’t make this up!) invented a new ice cream flavour called Flow. This flavour (caramel, a touch of cinnamon plus raisins and toasted pine nuts) was inspired by the timber structure and debuted at the opening event.
Even though the project is now open to the public (who seem to be embracing it with 12,000 visitors during the wettest April on record!) the benefits continue to accrue. We were successful co-applicants with the project manager Ed Carter for an 'Ingenious' grant from the Royal Academy of Engineering to engage the public in the engineering of the project. As part of this our structural engineer Andrew Walker is travelling up to Newcastle to speak to the public about the project, and to inspire them to understand that engineering can be cool.
We may have only broken even on our small fee, but in terms of enjoyment for our project team and relationships with some great people, I feel like we made a huge profit.
Photos taken by Jill Tate