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Photo-a-day 212: Bottle of Notes

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This is Bottle of Notes, a 1993 steel and enamel sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen which forms text from Captain Cook’s journals into a white bottle; a blue note inside is formed of a line of poetry by one of the artists. It’s about 35 feet tall, and leans at a considerable angle. It was forged a little further north in Hebburn.

Since the bottle’s 1993 installation, mima – the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art – has been built behind it. It opened in 2007, but is (perhaps unfortunately?) best known for hosting Jeremy Clarkson et al’s Top Gear exhibition of automotive art in 2009.

This 1,746th post was filed under: Photo-a-day 2012, , .

Photo-a-day 191: Tees Transporter Bridge

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As I’m coming to the end of my time working on Teesside, I think it would be impossible to leave without featuring one of the most iconic sights of the area: the Tees Transporter Bridge. The photo below might give a more familiar view, but it’s very difficult to fit the bridge into a single frame when this close up!

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The bridge was built 101 years ago, and remains in perfect working order. It is the world’s largest operational transporter bridge, and it carries people and vehicles along the A178, connecting Middlesbrough to Port Clarence. It remains the furthest downstream crossing of the River Tees.

There are only eleven transporter bridges left in the world, and still fewer that actually work. In the United Kingdom, only Newport boasts another working transporter bridge; there’s another bridge in Warrington that’s been out of use since 1964, while London’s Royal Victoria Dock Bridge was designed with (as yet unused) transporter bridge capabilities.

As with all transporter bridges, it works through loading people and vehicles onto a gondola, suspended from the main structure. This then moves back and forth – in less than two minutes each way – allowing traffic to cross. Here’s the gondola in action:

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The current tolls are surprisingly small: just £1.30 for a car, or 70p for a pedestrian or cyclist. For a smaller fee, it used to be possible to climb the steps at either end and walk across the top of the bridge. A restoration project going on at the moment will install glass elevators to transport visitors to the top, making the reportedly extraordinary views accessible to everyday visitors once again.

This 1,717th post was filed under: Photo-a-day 2012, , , .

Photo-a-day 171: Tees Newport Bridge

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Designed and built entirely on Teesside, and opened in 1934 by the Duke and Duchess of York (later the Queen Mother), this is the Tees Newport Bridge. It has a span of 82m, and two 55m lifting towers with counterweights of nearly 7,000 metric tonnes.

The little hut perched on the middle of the bridge is the winch-house, from where the up-and-down movement of the bridge was controlled. I say “little hut”, but I understand that it’s actually a quite beautiful oak-pannelled control room, modelled on the bridge of a ship. The bridge was winched by electric motors, though did have petrol backups. The third-line backup was to winch by hand, but it’s said that this would have taken twelve men eight hours.

22 years ago, after a final ceremonial raising and lowering (which is actually on YouTube), the road bridge was bolted in place: there was really very little point in continuing to maintain the lifting mechanism given that the innavigable (at least to big ships) Tees Barrage was just about to be constructed a little upstream. There was initially some speculation that the massive steel counterweights could therefore be detached and sold as scrap, until some bright spark realised that they were still actually supporting the weight of the road bridge, even though movement was prevented by the bolting process.

The bridge remains busy with traffic, as it’s part of the A1032.

This 1,693rd post was filed under: Photo-a-day 2012, , , .

Photo-a-day 130: James Cook

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I was back at the James Cook University Hospital for a meeting this morning – I previously featured it on 4th April.

I hadn’t ever really noticed until today how pretty the signs outside are. They’re a bit overshadowed by the massive lettering on a nearby fence.

I was going to make a sarcastic comment about the hospital’s “expresso bar”, but it turns out that expresso is, in fact, merely the Spanish to Italian’s espresso. There are, it seems, quite a few expresso bars. So I learned something new there!

This 1,641st post was filed under: Health, Photo-a-day 2012, , .

Photo-a-day 122: Temenos

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This is Temenos, the first of five planned Tees Valley Giants by Anish Kapoor – perhaps most famous at the moment for the ArcelorMittal Orbit in London’s Olympic Park.

When all five are completed, the Tees Valley Giants will be the world’s biggest public artwork – although given that each sculpture is destined for a different Tees Valley town, there’s surely a philosophical debate to be had about whether they’re really one artwork.

It’s not really the done thing to write off artists’ work, especially when they’re as well-respected as Kapoor – but I’ve never seen anything of his that doesn’t strike me as a bit soulless and bland. He seems to play with scale and materials, but never actually use them to say anything of note. But heck, I’m barely qualified to have an opinion on this, so just look at the photo and be amazed.

This 1,631st post was filed under: Photo-a-day 2012, , , .

Photo-a-day 117: Community in a Cube

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In recompense for my forgetfulness yesterday, I’ve got a small collection of photos today.

If you’re thinking that the above looks like someone has built a house on top of a block of flats, you’re not far wrong. It’s CIAC, or community in a cube, a new residential development in Middlesbrough’s shiny new Riverside One development. It consists of a block of flats of various sizes, with a couple of luxury houses on the top. It’s a fully sustainable development, and architecturally interesting to say the least.

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This shows the same building from a different angle, showing both “perched houses”. Also notice the bizarre Playschool-esque windows in the cutaway portion.

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Walking round the back of the building, this whole other surprise awaits: a strange inset geometric patterned wall, and paving resembling a jumbo zebra crossing. Oh, and a lamppost at a decidedly jaunty angle.

On a related note, the surrounding naked streets are the first I’ve driven on, and it’s certainly a disconcerting experience that forces you to slow right down – especially at junctions.

There’s no denying that CIAC and the whole Riverside One development is distinctive, and also modern. But it isn’t quite to my taste. But perhaps you’re asking yourself what the sales office for such a distinctive development looks like… Well, it certainly isn’t your usual portacabin or converted garage!

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This 1,622nd post was filed under: Photo-a-day 2012, , .

Photo-a-day 116: More Teessaurus Park

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I had a great photo in mind for today, but forgot to swing by the location, and then forgot about the photo-a-day altogether. I guess there’s always tomorrow!

In the meantime, in lieu of a photo from today, here’s an extra one from Teessaurus Park, which I wrote about yesterday. It’s made of this weird alloy called Elgiloy Hastelloy C and when you first see the texture, you will see why they choose it. I think this is probably supposed to be a stegosaurus, though my knowledge is rustier than these sculptures, and I’d be happy to be corrected!

This 1,621st post was filed under: Photo-a-day 2012, , .

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