The i360: vision and reality

If you walk past the i360 you will see a lot of hoardings. That's not surprising – it's a building site. On the hoardings there are various panels showing what the site will look like once the building work is finished. And on them the i360 tower sparkles in the sun.

Now look up at the real tower which rises imposingly above the boards. If it's a sunny day you may see some sparkle, where the sun hits it. if the weather is overcast or you are viewing it from the north it looks somewhat like a very large, industrial chimney. Is this what it will look like when it finally opens? You might well hope not.

So we got in touch with David Marks, the architect who designed the structure. Firstly, we suggested that there could be some kind of decorative feature on the apex. The original plan was for a vertical axis wind turbine at the top of the tower to help provide power to raise the viewing pod. This had to be abandoned because it would have interfered with the tower's damping mechanism, which will minimise its movement in high winds.

Perhaps a simple pointed top would be enough to make it look less chimney-like. Alternatively the i360 company perhaps could run a competition for artists and designers to suggest other ideas. David Marks reacted positively to these suggestions and promised to look further into them. 

On the appearance of the tower, he made some detailed comments which are worth quoting in full:

"When I was on site on Tuesday morning the tower was sparkling beautifully in the sunlight. When clouds moved to obscure the sun, the tower dulled to a grey appearance, similar in tone to the clouds above. These contrasting visual effects are intentional and directly subject to the variations in lighting conditions experienced at the seaside.
"The expanded aluminium (profiled mesh) cladding in front of the structure has open perforations covering 32 per cent of the panel face. IIt performs both an architectural and an engineering role. The structural steel tower behind is painted colour RAL9006 (silver). 
"In architectural terms, the cladding provides a filigree veil, or screen, over the engineering structure but without totally obscuring it, so that in different lighting conditions the silver structure, cladding rails and cleats become more or less visible.  
"The cladding has a bright silver anodised finish, which reflects ambient lighting conditions. This means, for example, in bright sunlight, the tower will reflect the bright sky; when there is a golden sunset, the tower will reflect the golden sky. It is obviously less reflective when not in direct sunlight (ie in shadow) and the appearance will be more grey than silver in those conditions.
"In engineering terms, the cladding provides mitigation against vortex shedding effects of the wind. In other words, it helps to prevent the tower from vibrating by filtering the wind through the profiled mesh.
"Building projects can often look disappointing until they are finished but I am convinced that once the glazed pod and the Victorian Tollbooths are installed, the lighting fitted and the site cleaned and opened to the public, it will all look a whole lot better. Would you bear with us until it is complete?"

Well, we'll all have to.

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