Creative Campus

EDA 'Synapse-Soleil' Sculpture

Background

Have you ever noticed the sculpture outside the Jennison building? Well, we jointly funded it! Designed by Michael Green and Sam Frewer (Assistant lecturers and PhD candidates within the School of Engineering and Digital Arts), and constructed by Michael Hart (a Tunbridge Wells blacksmith), the ‘Synapse-Soleil’ sculpture is a result of a competition held back in 2012.

The plinth just outside the EDA building had stood empty for 40 years before Creative Campus and The Ingenuity Fund, established by John Washington, funded a competition to finally get something built on top of it. The competitors had to design a sculpture for the plinth and by the 22nd of October 2014, Dr. Louise Naylor unveiled the final product in front of students, alumni, staff, former staff and friends of EDA.

So what’s it all about? The Synapse-Soleil sculpture evokes the Russian constructivist work of Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International (c.1919). The sculpture’s framework of intertwining strands is symbolic of the various disciplines within EDA. A smooth orb forms the structure’s focal point, representing the present day as it reflects its surroundings.

Complementing the plinth’s trapezoid shape, the sculpture’s ascending strands exemplify the School’s commitment and passion for academic growth and personal development. At its core, a bold curve is the main artery running through Synapse-Soleil. It represents the University, nurturing and supporting the School’s growth in delivering a first class learning experience.

How to find the EDA sculpture

Not seen it yet? The sculpture is really easy to find! It is right at the front of the Jennison building, opposite the Sports Centre.

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Photographed by Michael Hart

Making the sculpture

The design and construction of this sculpture wasn’t easy! It was a two-year process, from the competition being won, to the sculpture’s unveiling. Mike Green and Sam Frewer originally submitted two designs to the competition. In the picture below you can see the submission that won, and you may already notice a few differences between the original design and the final construction.

design-submission

Mike Green, assistant lecturer at EDA, describes the whole experience as a ‘good learning process’. He began the project with the mindset of a designer, and had to learn a lot about engineering as he went along. The design constantly changed and adapted over two years, as it had to be affordable and structurally achievable while visually keeping as close to the original design as possible.

One very noticeable change when comparing the original design and the final construction is the colour! Mike and Sam’s initial concept included the big spiral being painted the University’s official blue. Also, the sphere was to be a bright red so that it would stand out. No colour was added in the end because plain and coloured metal don’t work well together.

After speaking to colleagues at the School of Arts in Medway, the designers also discovered that it is very difficult to bend a tube of metal without it deforming. The solution to this problem was the spirals becoming flat.

After winning the competition (see the brief below!), the designers had to find quotes for the sculpture to be built. They made a maquette of the sculpture, which came in useful when demonstrating their vision. They soon found a Tunbridge Wells based blacksmith called Michael Hart, who put together a small model for the designers to see, and went on to build the sculpture in sections.

competition-brief

The spirals were originally meant to go through the sphere. However, this would have been too hard to construct, so now a single pole holds up the sphere whilst the spirals twist around it. These spirals get thinner as they go up the sculpture and the separation between them becomes less condense. This is another tweak that was made to make the sculpture bottom-heavy.

Once the sculpture was built, it had to be galvanized. This means that it was dipped in zinc to prevent it from rusting and make it look shiny. The designers now thought that the spirals were too shiny. They wanted the sphere to stand out, so they then had the rest of the sculpture acid washed so that it weathered more, giving it an aged effect to contrast against the chrome sphere.

And finally, the sculpture was placed on the plinth and unveiled. So what does it represent? Well, the big spiral symbolizes the university, while the three little spirals represent the three parts of the EDA school. Meanwhile, the sphere reflects the present day (literally, because it is so shiny)!

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Photographed by Michael Hart

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Photographed by Michael Hart

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Photographed by Michael Hart

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Outcome

Not only has EDA filled its empty plinth, Mike Green and Sam Frewer got a lot out of the project too!

The project has allowed us to experience, and learn from, the process of sculpture creation from initial conception to final product. Having been at Kent for a number of years with the plinth lain bare it is great to see a piece of art finally in place and acting as a focal point for the School.

~ Mike Green

 

Here is what the plaque says:

SYNAPSE-SOLEIL
2012-2014

Designed by Michael Green FRSA and Sam Frewer to represent the various disciplines and ethos of the School of Engineering and Digital Arts in celebration of the University of Kent’s 50th anniversary.

The flowing strands exemplify the School’s commitment and passion for academic growth and personal development. At its core, a bold curve is the main artery running through Synapse-Soleil, representing the University, nurturing and supporting the School’s growth in delivering a first class learning experience.

Constructed by Tunbridge Wells blacksmith, Michael Hart.

Supported by Creative Campus and John Washington.

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Last Updated: 07/06/2015