Out of the Strong Came Forth Sweetness by Ian McChesney

February 8, 2011

Out of the Strong Came Forth Sweetness is a new seating sculpture by British architect Ian McChesney for the Angel Building in London.


Out of the Strong Came Forth Sweetness

Out of the Strong Came Forth Sweetness is a stunning new sculpture by Ian McChesney for the Angel Building in London. The shape of the piece was generated by allowing treacle to fall from a spoon – the resulting form is then inverted. The unit comprises an oval seating area from which extends a narrow twenty two metre high spar – that’s over 5 double decker buses. The title is taken from the motto on the Lyles Black Treacle tin which, in turn is a reference to a story in the Old Testament. It is fabricated from carbon fibre which is both strong and very light enabling it to be incredibly slender. At the foot of the piece is a seating area upholstered in leather by designer Bill Amberg.

The piece was comissioned by developer Derwent London for the Angel Building, a new office development near the Angel underground station in Islington, London. The building was designed by architects AHMM.

About the Piece by Ian McChesney
Our brief from Derwent was simple, to propose an artwork for the atrium of the Angel Building that might also provide an opportunity for public seating and interaction. The atrium was to be an impressive space designed by Architects AHMM, rigorously detailed and beautifully crafted. We were aware that a light touch might be the best approach. We were initially given just drawings and images of the space, a rough model of the atrium was constructed to help us understand the shape and nature of the atrium. This would also provide an opportunity to experiment placing differing forms in the model using pieces of wire and strips of card etc. A fine strand-like form emerged, gently leaning from the entrance, not competing too strongly with the surrounding architecture but cutting a line through it, holding its symmetry and drawing the eye upwards.

We wanted the piece to be fluid in form, in contrast with the very rational nature of the surrounding building. It was important that the shape was generated through a real process rather than mere invention. Remembering how treacle glides off a teaspoon we set about experimenting. What was elegant about the treacle was that as it fell from the spoon a sinuous tapering curve form was generated. So in an instant the shape of the piece was born, the elliptical spoon shape would provide the seat and base, the long strand the spar rising up the atrium. The title of the piece ‘Out of the Strong Came Forth Sweetness’ appears as a motto on the Lyles treacle tin and is in turn a biblical reference from chapter 14 of the Book of Judges. While this provided a direct link to the piece, the phrase had a resonance with the form.

The piece is made from carbon fibre which is both very strong and lightweight. We worked with engineers Atelier One in the initial instance to analyse the structural properties of the spar, the width of which was arrived at by a process of calculated trial and error. The form was then designed in more detail by engineers Gurit using computer based ‘Finite Element Analysis’. It was subsequently built on the Isle of Wight by AM Structures a fabricator with origins in boat building. The piece is 22 metres high and narrows to 100mm diameter at the midpoint, and 25mm at the tip..

Photography by Peter Cook