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Gateshead apprentices to support construction of iconic Cone artwork installation

The Jetty Project is set to transform Dunston Staiths on the banks of the River Tyne through a series of iconic artworks.Believed to be the largest timber structure in Europe, the staiths is one of the last survivors of a coal trade which underpinned the North East economy for hundreds of years.It has fallen into decline in recent years, but now The Jetty Project, along with Heritage Lottery funding secured by the Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust, is starting to turn that around.Bringing together artists, architects and social scientists from Newcastle University and the University of Manchester, it is hoped the artworks will provoke both professional and public debate around sustainability, particularly about how it can work within often conflicting environmental, social and economic agendas.At the heart of this debate will be Wolfgang Weileder’s sustainable sculptures, which will not only be made from recycled materials, but will also be recycled after use. The initial artwork – Cone – will be made out of Aquadyne, a sustainable drainage material made from 100% recycled waste plastics more commonly used in green roofs.During special organised tours, visitors will be able to explore inside the temporary installation, which is designed to evoke memories of old glass kilns. It is expected to take about a week to build and will be integrated within the Grade II listed wooden structure from late June, then on show throughout the summer. There will also be a series of public events connected to the artwork.Apprentices from the Mears Group, currently studying at Gateshead College, will be instrumental in pre-fabricating some of the components and working with Prof Weileder on site to construct Cone.“Through artwork such as this, we’re looking at how fine art projects can make a meaningful contribution to the debate around urban sustainability as well as being exciting works of art in their own right,” says Weileder, Professor of Contemporary Sculpture at Newcastle University.“In order to make sense, something like this needs to be credible, which means it has to say something meaningful to everyone from architects and artists to people who lived in Dunston when the staiths was still operational.”As part of the Jetty Project, research associate Angela Connelly, of the University of Manchester, has interviewed relevant professionals and held two community workshops to generate conversations about what should happen to the staiths and what the artworks might do.From this research, over 70 unique ideas were generated and in terms of the artwork, people were keen to see something that would symbolise a transition between the past and future. Some also wanted any new structure to consider environmental issues in the area, such as the rare birds that use the staiths.There is also a supporting cast of construction specialists ensuring everything goes to plan. rBau Ltd, who have worked previously with Prof Weileder on large-scale structural projects, are constructing Cone’s supporting core, alongside their role in developing the scaffold design and specifications in collaboration with Layher.The Jetty Project is AHRC (Arts & Humanities Research Council) funded and led by Newcastle University in collaboration with the University of Manchester.


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