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Rain Bow Gate

A new landmark sculpture ‘Rain Bow Gate’ will welcome investors and visitors to Burnley’s Knowledge Quarter, providing a distinctive first impression to the Knowledge Quarter.


The contemporary new Rain Bow Gate sculpture has been designed by architects Tonkin Liu, who have already brought Burnley international acclaim and several national awards for the town’s unique landmark visitor attraction – the Singing Ringing Tree.

Rain Bow Gate, which will be completed and in situ at the end of August 2011, forms part of the wider Public Realm transformation project already underway on Princess Way, and will be located on the new public space being created opposite the UCLan and Burnley College campus, as part of the Letts Wheeler design proposals.

Anna Liu of Tonkin Liu says:  “We are thrilled to be working in Burnley and collaborating with Mike Smith Studio again, with the same spirit of boldness, adventure, and pursuit of quality that drew us to the hilltop in Burnley seven years ago.”

She explains the ideas behind Rain Bow Gate:  “We were inspired by how the viaduct frames the view of the surrounding landscape, which I think is one of the best things about Burnley.

“When we visited Burnley to develop this project, we met with students from the College and UCLan campus to hear their views on their town and what they thought would best reflect the spirit of Burnley.

“Our final proposal, Rain Bow Gate, is a bow structure that integrates 500 prisms to capture light and create rainbows.  A new breed of single-surface structure we’ve pioneered with structural engineers at Arup, the structure uses advanced digital modelling, analysis, and fabrication tools.  The transformation of light into rainbow evokes a sense of wonder, which we feel is at heart of education.

“Rain – celebrates Burnley’s nature and weather which was pivotal to Burnley’s industrial past. Bow – reflects the arches of the viaduct, a dynamic and highly-efficient structural form. Gate – reflects the how the different parts of Burnley connect at this site.

“The innovative use of steel will reflect Burnley’s advanced manufacturing status and future aspirations for the Knowledge Quarter as a centre for design and manufacturing excellence.”

The Value of Public Art

Burnley Council is committed to encouraging the commissioning of high calibre and innovative public art within new developments.

The sculpture is a small but inspiring aspect of the overall Princess Way Public Realm project, which will create a contemporary gateway to the town and the Knowledge Quarter; with high quality paving, lighting and landscaping to improve pedestrian access between the town centre, the new Curzon square shopping development and the Knowledge Quarter.

 The aim of the overall scheme is to attract new investment and jobs to the Knowledge Quarter which will incorporate the proposed 5 acre employment site ‘The Knowledge Park’ as well as the College & UCLan campus.

The council wanted a bold, contemporary piece which would create a distinctive first impression to the developing gateway, reflecting education, enterprise and Burnley’s ambition for the future.

 High quality public realm works are proven to have a wider economic value, including raised demand for land and buildings in the area, increased property values and the attraction of more investment and visitors. I am confident the Princess Way Public Realm transformations and Rain Bow Gate will do just that.

This public art commission is aimed at supporting the wider objectives of the Princess Way Public Realm project and achieving the following aims:

To enhance the overall image and perceptions of the area to visitors and investors

  • to provide a positive, distinctive first impression
  • to development innovative designs for the area
  • to donate the area for the Knowledge Quarter (formerly known at the Education and Enterprise Zone)
  • to raise the profile of Burnley’s ambition for improvement
  • to reflect Burnley’s brand themes of natural, animated and connected

How was the artist shortlisted and who chose them?

In May 2010 the opportunity to design a sculpture for the Princess Way Public Realm attracted 49 artist applications. Representatives from both the public and private sector then shortlisted the best four responses and asked the artists to draw up proposals for artwork to be considered. Designs were submitted in December 2010 and following a consultation exercise with Tonkin Liu their Rain Bow Gate Design was chosen.