Solar Gate

Structural Designer


Client Name

Hull City Council


Kingston-upon-Hull, United Kingdom

Pearlgreen Engineering

Tonkin Liu Architects Images: © Will Arnold, Tonkin Liu, Alex Peacock & Pearlgreen


A 10m tall artwork celebrating Hull’s status as 2017 UK City of Culture. Built as a stressed skin structure made entirely from stainless steel, digital tools were used to align exact sun angles from particular times and dates to pairs of large apertures on its front and back surfaces. When a beam of sunlight passes through an aligned pair of apertures, it lands on a corresponding disc on the ground, revealing a significant event for the time and date. This innovative approach to design and building learns from nature, using curvature, corrugation and distortion to add strength. No additional structure is required internally as the undulating skin links the two sides together, making the artwork completely self-supporting.

Judge's comment:

This small project impressed the judges particularly for the ingenious use of thin sheet steel in ways that maximised its structural performance and provided an overall elegance and lightness to the sculpture. Taking advantage of automation in design and fabrication, a seemingly complicated pattern of small elements was manufactured and assembled with relative ease. This project exemplifies the elegance that can be achieved where, by working together closely, structural engineer and artist can achieve delightful results. The judges agreed that they look forward to seeing a bigger version sometime soon.


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