North West RIBA Awards

After the rain comes the Rain Bow Gate

Rainbow Gate Burnley- RIBA Awards 2013

Rain Bow Gate is stunning new piece of public artwork to welcome the people of Burnley.

The new award-winning artwork came about as the result of an artwork competition organised by Burnley Borough Council, implemented to enhance the image and overall perception of the Princess Way Gateway – Education & Enterprise Zone.

The Rain Bow Gate project was funded by the European Regional Development fund, Homebase Section 106 funds, Sustrans, Burnley College, and Bury Council. The aim was to create an improved public space at the campus entrance, and provide a positive, distinct first impression for visitors and residents of Burnley; and develop a contemporary, bold, creative, innovative and high quality design that denotes the area for education and enterprise in Burnley.

Rainbow Gate Burnley- RIBA Awards 2013

Discussing the new structure, Council Leader, Charlie Briggs said:

“The sculpture is a small but inspiring aspect of the overall Princess Way Public Realm Project. Rain Bow Gate will create a contemporary gateway to the town and the Knowledge Quarter; which includes high quality paving, lighting and landscaping to improve pedestrian access between the town centre and the town.”

Rainbow Gate Burnley- RIBA Awards 2013

Mike Smith Studio a design and fabrication specialist, worked on the Rainbow Gate. Working alongside the team of architects and engineers, Mike Smith Studio worked hard in order to find the best way to create this beautiful structure.

Commenting on the project, Michael Smith, owner of Mike Smith Studio said:

“It was great for us to be involved with Rain Bow Gate; the project has had good coverage from the local and RIBA press and has led to more work on similar projects.”
Rainbow Gate Burnley- RIBA Awards 2013

Showcasing a strong three-dimensional form constructed from flat, laser cut, 3mm steel sheets, the geometrically-stiff, ultra-light structure minimises weight and wastage, demonstrating the Shell Structure’s principles pioneered by Tonkin Liu and engineers at Arup. Designed to harness beams of sunlight, 133 glass prism inserts were installed into the structure to cast rainbow-coloured light from the piece.

Rainbow Gate Burnley- RIBA Awards 2013

The three gateways welcome people from three directions, where three routes converge in front of the college, creating a gathering place. The three perforated arches fuse to form a covered space that responds to the ever-changing weather.

The pavilion captures light and creates an array of colour from nature’s full colour spectrum. The design makes use of carefully considered angles and the perforations in the roof, which at night allow light to cast rainbows onto the mist.

Rainbow Gate Burnley- RIBA Awards 2013

The bow of the rainbow is the most simple and dynamic natural geometry, structurally efficient due to its curvature, thereby minimising use of material. The arches of the viaduct give the site one of its most defining architectural characteristics.

A Shell Lace Structure principle was used for the bow, using 3mm thick stainless steel to create a continuous strong form. Shell Lace Structure is a technique informed by nature and gains strength from optimised curvilinear geometry, locking in stiffness with corrugation. Lightness is achieved through perforation, creating highly-efficient and responsive structures with minimum weight and wasted.

Rainbow Gate Burnley- RIBA Awards 2013

Such is the success of Rain Bow Gate that it received recognition with a RIBA Award, something which Anna Liu of Tonkin Liu is very proud of. Speaking to Premier Construction magazine, Anna Liu, commented:

“We are delighted that Rain Bow Gate was completed to a level of quality and originality to win a RIBA Award. What better place for the innovative structural principles of Shell Lace Structure, than at Burnley’s college, where future designers, engineers and entrepreneurs are nurtured.”

Rainbow Gate Burnley- RIBA Awards 2013

Anna added:

“After the rain comes the rainbow, and we hope that the sense of wonder continues in the spirit of learning in Burnley.”


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