Singing Ringing Tree, Burnley

Singing Ringing Tree

Architect

TONKIN LIU LTD

Structural Engineer

JANE WERNICK ASSOCIATES

Steelwork Contractor

MIKE SMITH STUDIO

Main Contractor

MIKE SMITH STUDIO

Client

BURNLEY COUNCIL

The Singing Ringing Tree is a musical sculpture in the landscape, constructed of stacked mild steel pipes of varying lengths, which sits on the top of a hill above Burnley, in Pennine Lancashire. From a structural perspective the project is a very small but highly complex sculpture, designed on a modest budget.

Singing Ringing Tree takes the form of a tree bending to the winds and harnesses the energy of those winds to produce a low, tuneful song. Previously occupied by a derelict brick shed and radio mast, the Crown Point site is now defined by an enigmatic sculpture which sings into the landscape, animating this dramatic location with song.

Singing Ringing Tree is completely selfsupporting. It is constructed of structural and musical tubes made from mild steel, a material that can be welded cheaply but is sufficiently heavy to ground the asymmetrical form and prevent it from toppling. Galvanised steel was chosen because it is strong, stiff and durable and therefore able to withstand the rigours of a site that in extreme cases can be vulnerable to wind speeds of 160 km/h.

The weight of each layer is transferred by steel rings which act to tie the tubes in each plane to each other and provide a load path down to the foundation of the sculpture. The slight horizontal rotation of layers provides horizontal in-bracing.

The structure has been designed to tolerate people climbing on it and to withstand snow and extreme wind loads.

The sculpture is an asymmetrical doublecantilevered structure incorporating 320 pieces of galvanised steel pipe divided into 21 layers. Steel circular rings of varying sizes define each layer and support a plane of parallel pipes spaced 200mm apart. The length and number of the pipes also vary, and fill in an oval on plan. It is towards the top of the sculpture that the 25 pipes which produce the sound are positioned.

Tubes vary in length and diameter to create a range of musical chords, and are arranged in a regular rhythm of layers. Each layer differs from the next by a 15 degree horizontal shift, creating an asymmetrical sculpture in the round, which responds to the changing wind directions. To create flutes that would tune the sound made by the wind, slots were added to the underside of 25 pipes.

The structure is at its narrowest – 1.2m – in the middle, and this is where the stresses in the structure are the highest. Computer models were used to calculate how the lines of force would transfer through the structure’s layers, rings, bolts and pipes.

It took only two days for the prefabricated steel pipes and rings to be bolted into place on site. The steel has been galvanised to prevent rusting, giving a highly reflective shimmering surface which will dull over time, to yield a softer reflective patina.

Judges’ Comment

s:

This is sculpture in a structural form, being one of a series of “Panopticons” intended to inspire renewed interest in this part of East Lancashire. The asymetrical form may be likened to a windswept tree, which sings and rings in the wind. The galvanised tubes are welded to rings, assembled in layers and some are slotted, generating an eerily mournful sound.

The Singing Ringing Tree is beautiful and evocative, and as a landmark it is an appropriate use of steel.