Tay Whale (2021)

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Client: Lee James Simmons and Littlehampton Welding Ltd
Artist: Lee Simmons
Location: Dundee, UK

Date: 2021-12-20 00:00:00 +0000 UTC
Tags: Public art, sculpture, steel, timber

Tay whale is one of the largest public works of art in the UK. The 40m long by 9m high interpretation of whale from stainless steel tubing has been installed on the waterfront in Dundee, Scotland next to the Kengo Kuma Victoria and Albert museum. We were responsible for the full Structural Engineering design from competition stage to completion.

The structure is a work of highly refined engineering and geometry rationalisation. Based on the principle of a two way spanning, three dimensional vierendeel frame the whale is supported by three slender tree like plate steel columns and its fins and tail cantilever a considerable distance in order to emphasise the detached swimming nature of the form. The global form was optimised via computational design techniques so that the deflection of the piece is at its minimum and rather than make overly simplified assumptions on behaviour every connection was analysed separately via a complex inter-linked digital engineering workflow. CFD (computational fluid dynamics) modelling was carried out to investigate the wind pressures of what is very complex shape. These measures enabled us to reduce material, and keep the joints and members slender. The art met its budget whilst still matching the artists original vision.

In addition to Structural Engineering we provided input into the temporary works design, its transportation by sea and the rationalisation of the geometry into very complex and costly curves into simple single radius arcs. This step alone preserved the look of the structure while saving thousands of pounds from the budget.

Photos 1-4 ©Crate47, Photos 5-10 ©Stephen Finn

Simultaneous optimisation of whale supports and form