FARNBOROUGH WIND TUNNEL PROJECT
The Wind Tunnel Project
Hampshire, GU14 7EP
June 9 – July 20
colour photos & video: nathalie hambro
black/white images © Farnborough Air Sciences Trust archives
Aerodynamics, even at its most primitive, conspires to make aeroplanes art. Engineering and art share a spectrum, even if some manifestations of each are at opposite ends. TAG Aviation (the acronym for Techniques d’Avant Garde), not satisfied with having created the world’s coolest terminal at Britain’s oldest aerodrome (Farnborough), it has temporarily transformed the venue for an exhibition of contemporary art. Tatiana Ojjeh founder of new venture’s Artliner wants to ”explores ways of marrying art and aviation” as a way of enriching the business aviation travel experience. Artliner launches at Farnborough’s recently restored wind tunnel complex. Once a unique testing facility for aircraft, including the world famous Hurricane, the site was used into the 1990s for Grand Prix vehicle wind tunnel tests. The wind tunnels and the hangar were restored by Julian Harrap Architects, who were awarded the RIBA Awards in 2007 and 2008 for their work on both buildings by converting the tunnels into an exciting arts venue every two years to coincide with the Farnborough International Airshow.
Curator Salma Tuqan has commissioned artists Thor McIntyre-Burnie and James Bridle, to produce site-specific responses to the space to bring its past history to life. Their sound and visual installations highlights hauntingly the cathedral-like space into a near-spiritual experience.
Q121 and R52 are two of the most iconic examples of flight testing technology anywhere in the world. Both buildings were designed to help push the boundaries of British aviation in the race for dominance of the skies and homeland protection. The two buildings are opened to the public for the first time in history.
Opened in April 1935, the grade 1 listed Q121 is the largest wind tunnel in Great Britain and the largest return type tunnel in Europe. It remains very much in its original condition. The level of skill and precision employed in its construction to minimize wind-flow disturbance was outstanding, even by today’s standard. The massive 24ft diameter fan, vast 40ft high return air duct and cathedral-like test preparation area permitted complete complete aircraft as well as large models, wing and fuselage section and engines to be tested. This ares remains an awe-inspiring sight, normally completely hidden from public view.
Built in 1917, the R52 building housed the first wind tunnels at Farnborough and is one of the world’s earliest aerodynamic testing facilities, an extremely rare example of a purpose-built aviation structure from this era. Described by the Fast Museum as “craftsmanship of the first order, all handmade, both the wooden wind tunnel and the building itself are unique. Much important twentieth century aeronautical research and development was carried out there, right up until the 1990’s. R52 achieved English heritage grade II listed protection in February 2002.
designed in 1910, the airship hangar was one of only six airship sheds in the UK at the outset of the first world war. It had a very short life and was permanently dismantled in 1916 and reused to construct two other buildings on the factory site. The straight lower leg of the frame were used as the main structure of the fabric and balloon workshop, while the arched upper section was incorporated in a forge and foundry building. In 2006, a survey of the two listed buildings revealed that these buildings were listed as they contained the dismantled hangar. Both buildings were demolished in order to extract the structural components of the arch. Archival research indicates that it took 50 men five weeks to dismantle and rebuild the hangar in 2006.
wind tunnel project – video