The beacon sits at a convenient and highly visible juncture between major desire lines, calling for a civic marker that is memorable, invites public engagement and appears to sit comfortably within its high intensity urban context.
Reconceiving the vent shaft, however, presents itself with a number of design challenges. Its proximity to the R7 building creates an uncomfortably close relationship with the building and its retail spaces on the ground floor, while the structure as it stands is raw and utilitarian, presenting a cold and blank face to passers by. There is a tension between the need to clad the structure in a material that lends itself to being considered as a civic object rather than a piece of infrastructure, and the need to minimise the overall footprint of the object to reduce its impact on the R7 building as well as maintain the slender, vertical proportions that an urban marker calls for.
To address these issues, a skin consisting of vertical bronze rods wraps an existing venthilation shaft and undulates in plan, softening the form of the beacon. The rods are spaced to maintain the open area required for exhaust and intake whilst the bronze materiality lends a sculptural quality to the beacon, creating a clear relationship to the city’s history of bronze civic elements, from public sculptures to street furniture and paving inlays. This porous bronze skin creates layers of visual complexity when viewed from afar whilst inviting tactile engagement when up close. The Beacon is civic in scale, form and materiality yet ephemeral in quality and mysterious in meaning and purpose. This sculptural ambiguity allows its identity to change and evolve with time.