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Cutting edge public art for the new Institute of Digital Innovation

19 September 2007 @TeessideUni


An exciting and ambitious new sculpture has been installed on the side of the new Institute of Digital Innovation (IDI) at the University of Teesside on Woodlands Road, Middlesbrough.

This 5-ton ‘floating sculptural form’ emerges out of the street facade of the new Phoenix Building, home to the IDI and the exciting DigitalCity project.

The sculpture entitled Cactal combines futuristic design by internationally renowned artist Simeon Nelson with the skilled engineering by North East based steel fabricators Architectural Metalworkers, based in Washington, Tyne and Wear.

With tendrils growing across the building surface like ‘digital ivy’, Cactal reflects the internal activity of the IDI, which is opening this autumn. The Institute is bringing together the research and enterprise digital strengths of the University to help drive forward the ambitious DigitalCity project.

Dr Jim TerKeurst, the IDI Director, said: ‘It’s a terrific sculpture and represents the creative use of digital technology and the impressive metal craft skills and capabilities of the North East. We have aspirations to take the University of Teesside and DigitalCity to new heights and Simeon Nelson’s Cactal is a visual expression of this goal as it reaches up and across our new Phoenix Building.’

The artist, Simeon Nelson said: ‘Cactal is based on a digital organism. What the students and public will see high up on the facade of the Institute’s building is a process of self-generation that has been frozen at a particular moment.’

The artist worked with Teesside Computing graduate and DigitalCity Fellow Andy Keeble to produce a computer-generated image of the artwork for the steel fabricators. The building’s structural engineers, ARUP, and the main contractor HBG Construction Ltd, had to strengthen the building’s steelwork to hold the 5-ton sculpture firmly in place.

Cactal is the latest in a series of works by Simeon Nelson that addresses the historic relationship between sculpture, ornament and architecture. Emma Keating, from Commissions North at the Arts Council England North East said: ‘We were delighted to have provided seed funding for Simeon Nelson’s innovative design for the University of Teesside’s stunning new IDI building. Cactal shows the successful combination of digital design with the traditional skills of steel fabrication that exist in the North East.’

Professor Graham Henderson, Vice-Chancellor of the University, said: ‘The University landscape is enhanced by this innovative and thought-provoking work of art. I am delighted that our new Phoenix building is associated with this work by Simeon Nelson. It enriches our campus and, indeed, the Tees Valley itself.

  • Commissioned by the University of Teesside
  • Artist - Simeon Nelson
  • Location - Institute of Digital Innovation, Woodlands Road, Middlesbrough
  • Funded by a partnership of the regional development agency ONE NorthEast, University of Teesside, Middlesbrough Council, Commissions North, Arts Council England North East
  • Fabricated by Architectural Metalworkers Washington, Tyne & Wear