Holding Pattern

Holding Pattern is a large scale sculpture at the Lodge Avenue roundabout which represents a significant element of the A13 public art infrastructure in Barking, east London. The work consists of some seventy six 5.5 metre high stainless steel needles, their tips formed by a blue airport taxiway light. With a very strong peak intensity, they create by night a vivid blue constellation. The height of the needles corresponds to the underside of the A13 flyover as it crosses the roundabout. In strict lines the needles create a dramatic parallax effect that accentuates the movement around the roundabout. Here traffic ascends to and pierces the plateau of the lights halo, meeting this new datum and momentarily, traversing a field of blue light, before descending again beneath.
The precise location of each of the needles is organised according to the geometry of the roads, the principle axes being those of the historic Ripple Road and the A13 itself. These lines have been duplicated and projected to produce a deformed mesh across the whole of the central island. This organisation is represented through the ground surface as the close mown grass oval of the island is intersected by approximately 3 linear kilometres of narrow granite strips. At each intersection of these granite lines a steel needle is inserted. By day, the resultant landscape has a delicate presence as a filter of polished columns through which its hinterland is variously viewed.
The work contains a number moments at which the sense of the work is most pronounced. The active geometry and its relationship to the surrounding suburban fabric is apparent only from quite precise vantage points around it, the needles focusing into alignment momentarily as the viewer passes.
The title Holding Pattern contains a number of references. It relates equally to flight and airport procedures for take-off and landing, which can be seen as the organisation of objects, specifically incoming aircraft, all moving but all stationary in relation to one another, as well to the notion of the interaction of elements containing or holding a pattern.
The work is the result of a collaboration between the London based artists Graham Ellard and Stephen Johnstone and Dublin based architect Tom de Paor. De Paor was Ireland’s representative at this years Venice Architecture biennale. Ellard and Johnstone’s video installation works have been shown widely in the UK and abroad. The collaboration has been awarded a commission for their second work to be sited on a roundabout, outside the city of Cork in Ireland.
In January 2002 Holding Pattern was awarded a Special Mention in the 17th Architectural Association of Ireland awards for excellence in architectural design. It the first public art project to win such an award from the AAI.
The A13 Artscape project of which Holding Pattern forms a part is funded by the largest Arts Council National Lottery Award to a public art project to date - £3.895 million. The overall budget for the scheme is approximately £9 million and is projected to continue into 2003.
The creation, fabrication and installation of such a complex work as Holding Pattern has brought together a large and varied group of individuals and companies. All of the elements have been devised or customised specially for this project, many of the professionals involved have faced new challenges in order to realise the work. London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Engineers realised the scheme in collaboration with the artists, from their original concept and design. Thorn Lighting manufactured the light columns and collaborated on their development. Paul Baronti, a monumental mason who works locally in Rippleside Cemetery, carried out the inscription of the two granite title stones.






Photography: Douglas Atfield