Huntsman’s Araldite materials deliver excellent properties to city sculpture

19 March 2013

Composite materials from Huntsman Advanced Materials have been used to create a new central sculpture in the Jean Tinguely Carnival Fountain, situated on the esplanade of the municipal theatre in Basel, Switzerland.

The fountain was presented as a gift to the city from Migros Basel, one of Switzerland’s largest enterprises, in 1977. This iconic landmark features 10 mechanically powered moving creations including the Theaterkopf; the only glass reinforced plastic sculpture, which sits amidst nine other metal pieces.

In its 35-year history, the moving fountain has been inactive for just a few hours each year when maintenance or cleaning activities are undertaken. To maintain the iconic appearance of this key tourist attraction, it was decided that a new central figure of the Theaterkopf would be created.

On this project, Paul Walder, who assisted Jean Tinguely in constructing the fountain in 1977 and has maintained it ever since, worked alongside freelance sculptor Michael Cordasco, with support from Huntsman Advanced Materials.

The design objectives were to re-produce the original design of the Theaterkopf, using similar techniques and materials to those used for the original sculpture.

As a moving structure, which would be permanently situated in water and subject to a range of harsh environmental conditions, the new sculpture needed to be strong, stiff, lightweight and weather resistant. In keeping with the original, the new sculpture would also be finished in black.

Following consultation with Huntsman Advanced Materials – which supplied an Araldite resin system for the original – the sculptors selected a gelcoat and a new Araldite laminating resin system to help reinforce and complete the new piece.

These materials were specified for their outstanding properties in providing a high quality finish, while enabling the production of a robust composite part with the added benefits of cost savings achieved through room temperature curing and temperature resistance in application.

A silicone rubber mould was made from the original composite sculpture. On the surface of the mould, the sculptors applied two layers of Huntsman’s gelcoat. Providing the benefit of good wear resistance, the gelcoat gives the sculpture its high quality surface black look finish.

The Araldite laminating system was then applied, providing long-term interlayer adhesion between the surface coat and the ensuing layers of glass fibre mat reinforcement. Designed to satisfy the requirements of wet lay-up techniques for glass ply, this system met all the team’s needs with the added benefit of room temperature curing. To obtain the stiffness, strength and lightness of the sculpture, the reinforcement material and resin were then built up in several layers to a thickness of approximately 15mm.

The job was completed in an impressive three working days.

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