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Artwork heralds a new lease of life for staithes.

Byline: Tony Henderson Environment editor

THERE is a new feature on the Tyneside skyline after a giant artwork was unveiled on top of an industrial landmark.

The nine-metre-high black cone will remain on the listed Dunston Staithes in Gateshead until at least September, although there are hopes that this will be extended into next year.

The cone, built from 12 tonnes of panels made from recycled plastic, is part of the Jetty Project, being run by Wolfgang Weileder, professor of contemporary sculpture at Newcastle University.

The cone is based on the bottle-making kilns which were once part of the North East's industrial landscape, was unveiled this week.

One of the aims of the project is to raise the profile of the staithes, a scheduled monument, from which up to 5.5 millon tonnes of coal a year were loaded on to collier ships for export.

"I think the artwork looks great and I hope it highlights the staithes and encourages people to think about sustainability and what we do with our heritage structures," said Prof Weileder.

The 12 tonnes of material used represents the annual carbon output of four people in Gateshead.

Guided tours are being planned of the artwork. The cone is part of a wider drive to focus attention on the future of the staithes, where restoration work is currently under way on timbers damaged by past arson attacks, in a project by owners Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust, which is backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Believed to be the largest timber structure in Europe, the staithes is one of the last survivors of a coal trade which underpinned the North East economy for hundreds of years.

Apprentices from the Mears Group, currently studying at Gateshead College, worked on the construction of the cone. Research associate Angela Connelly interviewed relevant professionals and held community workshops to generate conversations about what should happen to the staithes and what the artworks might do.

From this research, over 70 ideas were generated and in terms of the artwork, people were keen to see something that would symbolise a transition between the past and future.

Some also wanted any new structure to consider environmental issues in the area, such as the birds that use the staithes area.

The staithes were gifted to the Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust in 1996, who have been looking for ways to preserve it ever since.

The trust secured PS420,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund at the end of last year for the project.

Ideas include making it part of the nearby C2C cyclepath or creating a high level urban park similar to the High Line in New York.


Dunston Staithes showing the nine-metre-high black cone. Inset: Prof Wolfgang Weileder
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 5, 2014
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