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 public artwork, commissioned as a permanent installation to celebrate Hull’s status as 2017 UK City of Culture, and built as a stressed skin structure made entirely from stainless steel. Solar Gate uses digital tools 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. No additional structure is required internally making the artwork completely self-supporting. 

Judge's comment:

The sculpture is built as a 4mm thick stressed skin of stainless steel. This innovative approach to design and building learns from nature, using curvature, corrugation and distortion to add strength. The base is only 900mm wide.

At design gateways the design team resisted advice to revert to a skeleton structure that was clad. The purity of the stressed skin was maintained: the artwork and structure are one. The Arup team have delivered far more than the artistic brief pertaining to sunlight passing through pairs of apertures at specific times and dates. They have taken something that could have been satisfactory and turned it into something coherent and unique.

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Telephone: +44 (0)20 7235 4535
Email: [email protected]

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