2007 – Interactive motorway _ Middlesbrough UK
Program Town motorway identity
Place A66, Middllesbrough, United-Kingdom
Team Project with Franck Cassar (sound engineer, interactive installations)
Owner Middlesbrough competition organized by RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architect) – Special mention by the pannel in the last competition phase
General principles A motorway separates Middlesbrough city. It defines two territories with their own space times. Our intervention takes place on the border between these two territories. We create an interactive limit which uses specificities of the motorway (noise, light…). It transforms its drawbacks into qualities. This limit is an answer to strong economic constraints. It reinvents itself along the motorway and thus creates an environment, a changing landscape. It acts as a play sculpture. Pedestrian can enter in it and experiment space(s). It is a global sensorial experimentation for walkers. It gives a strong identity to this motorway portion. It takes part in the city identification and creates a connection between the districts located on both sides.
From east to west, three axes run across Middlesbrough city: the tees river, the railway and the motorway.
We do not want to try to erase the A66. It takes entirely part of the town.
- To make it a pleasure event both for pedestrian who go along and across the A66.
- To improve North South connexion.
- To create a unique place which uses the highway specificities and potentialities.
- To transform its default (noise, high speed car flow) in advantages (sound, music, play experiment).
- To reduce sound for inhabitants in the distance (noise barrier).
People should like to practice the residual spaces near the motorway. It would not act anymore as a limit but as an enjoyable place to go through. This going through has to act as an experience. The highway feature will create a connecting interactive place.
The objective is to create a living area which would be intended both for pedestrians and car drivers. ‘Living area’ because this place needs to always reinvent itself. It has to look different from each vision angle, to modify through time and space while creating an identifiable place.
We want the A66 to be as an attractive and welcoming magic tube. It takes benefit of the two different space-time specificities. It is changing and very pleasant to go through. It becomes a vibrant and radiant city ‘artery’.
To realize it, we use basic simple modules. Their arrangement creates various sequences. They take care of global visual aspect, space feeling, auditory and visual interactions. They act as interactive sculptures that you can see from the outside and live in the inside.
The alphabet, the identity
We will use different module which will create a unique alphabet while giving us the possibility to design an infinite number of form and sensorial sequences. Each sequence needs to be different. It will produce spaces to experiment and induce sensorial interactions.
Such as Stonehenge and because of the simplicity of their shape, the alphabetical elements should seem coming from nowhere.
* The modules:
2 dimensional monoliths: 2 kinds
Some full of prefabricated rough concrete (70 % of the modules)
- 2 sizes without foundation: 16 x 250 x 450 cm (0,54 x 8,20 x 14,76 feet) / 16 x 250 x 300 cm (0,54 x 8,20 x 9,84 feet)
- 2 colours (grey and red/pink)
- They are positioned with different angles from the ground.
- They are sound reflexive (sound barrier).
- Some have holes to create sound effect
- Some integrate optical fibre to create starlit monolith (see L-05).
Some empty: a steel structure with cladding elements (30 % of the modules)
- Size 25 x 250 x n cm (0,62 x 8,20 x n feet) – n is variable
- Cladding elements are recycled plastic or metal, vegetal, translucent plastic.
They can be sound and light reflexive, absorbent. They can also incorporate various effects.
1 dimensional lighting Sticks : 4 shapes
They can be moved upside down and they are multifaceted to give a global impress of infinite variety.
It is created thanks to the matter of the module (reflexive, absorbent) and to their combination. Some holes in the module also participate to the sound landscape. Sound source comes from the motorway traffic or the wind.
Using natural light reflection (reflector fixed on the module, reflexive matter…).
The light comes from car headlight or led (low energy, high durability). The light is transmitted by optical fibre cable. There are also effects controlled by detector movement cells, flow captor in the motorway.
Optional: Interaction between car flow and colours
Using sensor which measure traffic flow and transmit it to computer will permit to adapt stick lighting with traffic density. It is also useful
- to obtain traffic information in real time (possibilities in the future to communicate them to motorist on different part of the highway or by GPS)
- and to animate in real time a virtual artistic space relaying the A66 on the Middlesbrough website.
* Adaptability / multiplication of configurations
The different modules permit to create various sequences which can easily adapt themselves to every place, budget (using cheap and more expensive modules) and situation.
- Some ‘thin sequences’ with few modules can be intended for cars only and for people in the distance (no pedestrian accessibility)
- Some sequences can express the crossing of different flux or path (pedestrian, car, bike)
- Some will give accessibility for pedestrian to the residual area near the motorway. It will transform it into a unique space that incorporates motorway specificities (sound, headlight) to offer to the audience a unique experimentation. The sequence can then become thicker. We can even design huge sequences. Those town particularities then become attractions. People would come to distract or visit. They create sensory experiment and offer various space perceptions.
About the effects visible from the road:
To never disturb the motorist, the effect one creates on a module is only visible by others. Most of the light variation effects are slow changing colour. There is no light that could suddenly flash.
The succession of sequences forms would induce drivers to reduce speed.
Modules are rough or use rough matter, and the affect on time can only improve them (by incorporated them better in the place).
Light sources are concentrate to make maintenance easier even if we only use high level led which combine low consumption and great lifespan (theoretically 50 000 hours). Optical fibres are very resistant (infinite lifespan).
Sticks are made of polyethylene. This plastic is adapted to rough climate. Light system (radar and light) needs less maintenance than usual lampposts. Switch sensor is very common.
The flow measurement system uses electromagnetic loops associates to a collector data station. This material is also very common; it has proved its efficiency throw time on a lot of roads or highways.
* Sustainable development
- Electric energy for light can be produced by windmill or by solar panel.
- Cladding module uses recycled material (on our visit we have seen some scrap place).
- Light sources are external or created by high level led (low consumption of energy).
- The concrete can be made with Tx aria cement an innovative tool to actively fight the accumulation of substances that are known for causing smoke (photoactive element capable of abating the noxious substance produce by industry and transport).