Farnborough's historic wind tunnels to be transformed into art venues

By Sarah Jackson | 17 December 2013

A selection of international artists will use the sites Q121, R52 and the Portable Airship Hangar at Farnborough as both inspiration and setting for new artworks

Black and white photograph of a wind tunnel turbine.
© Jay McLaughlin

For the first time, Farnborough’s Grade I-Listed wind tunnels will be opened to the public. In a project staged by Artliner next June and July, the Grade I-Listed 1917 and 1935 buildings will be reinvigorated with a selection of works from international artists.

Once used to test aircrafts such as the Hawker Hurricane and more recently used in Grand Prix airflow-vehicle interaction, the wind tunnels have laid disused for more than a decade. As well as the six-week exhibition in 2014, there are plans to reinvent the tunnels as exciting new arts venues outside of London, with similar projects planned every two years, coinciding with the Farnborough International Airshow.

Salma Tugan, a contemporary Middle Eastern curator at the V&A, is curating The Wind Tunnel Project 2014. She will invite artists to draw inspiration from the heritage and archive of the Farnborough Air Sciences Trust Museum, creating "subtle interventions" of sound, light and performance in a "sensory experience" for visitors.

Richard Gardner, the Chairman of the Museum, said the idea represented a "new life" for the historic site.

“The FAST trustees have campaigned for 20 years to safeguard the legacy of the Royal Aircraft Establishment," he reflected.

"A priceless collection of artefacts, film and documents are now safe in the FAST museum."

The project also aims to have a positive impact on the local community, with a diverse educational programme engaging 34 local schools and more than 30,000 students. Classroom activities and creative workshops will take place inside the wind tunnels themselves.

“Walking through the site you are touched by the spirit that produced some of the greatest developments in aeronautical engineering," said Tatiana, the founder of Artliner.

“From our engagement with the local community, past workers and enthusiasts of the sites, it was clear it was not simply a question of saving these historic buildings but of giving them a function again, to make an impact for the long term, shining a light on the past through art and our educational programme; once more creating a place of inspiration and innovation that will ensure the wind tunnels’ legacy continues for future generations.”

Black and white image of a wind tunnel turbine.
© Jay McLaughlin

Black and white photograph showing control panel with dials and measuring instruments.
© Jay McLaughlin

Black and white image showing the inside of a large warehouse space.
© Jay McLaughlin

Black and white photograph of a large room with a plane engine.
© Jay McLaughlin

Brown and yellow brick building housing a wind tunnel.
© Courtesy of Artliner

Aircraft hanger made out of metal.
© Courtesy of Artliner

Follow Sarah Jackson on Twitter @SazzyJackson.

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