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Eco Sculpture Points Way to Improving Air Quality in Cities
Known for their explorations of environmental and ecological issues, Dalziel + Scullion´s latest work once again sees the artists raising questions about the sustainability of our current lifestyles.

DUNDEE.- A new ‘eco’ sculpture was unveiled in Dundee, by award-winning artists Dalziel + Scullion. Catalyst, the life-size model of a car, weighing 13.6 tonnes, has been cast in a remarkable form of concrete that converts the airborne pollutants caused by traffic into oxygen and nitrates, and can thereby reduce atmospheric toxins. “The material was originally developed for use on pavements in congested urban areas to improve air quality,” says Matthew Dalziel, one half of the artistic partnership, which is based at the University of Dundee. “We are very pleased that our artwork marks the first time this material has been used in the UK.”

Known for their explorations of environmental and ecological issues, Dalziel + Scullion’s latest work once again sees the artists raising questions about the sustainability of our current lifestyles. “Ecological issues have been becoming increasingly important on the political agenda in recent years,” says Louise Scullion, “and interest in environmental sustainability is no longer confined to specialists. Our generation will play a critical role in addressing the ecological challenges of global warming and climate change.”

“We are excited by the development of this material and its potential to, address environmental issues in the fabric of our cities ” adds Mathew Dalziel, “Catalyst points the way to how cities with notoriously bad air quality, from Los Angeles to Athens and Beijing, could, in the short term, mitigate some of the worst effects of airborne pollutants. However at the same time we recognize it is typical of human endeavour to focus on mitigating the impact rather than addressing the cause of our environmental problems. However, the material offers a practical means addressing air quality in the short term, as we collectively work to address the bigger issues relating to environmental sustainability.”

"Public art has been an important part of the positive changes Dundee has undergone in the last 20 years,” says Councillor Fraser Macpherson, Planning and Transport Convener for Dundee City Council. “Many forget that Dundee was one of the very first cities in the UK to take public art seriously, and since 1982 has installed over a hundred works throughout the city, creating interest and excitement in the built environment. It is great to see this continuing with a new exciting work by local artists Dalziel and Scullion."

Catalyst takes the form of that icon of 20th century personal freedom – the car. A symbol of a society which increasingly valued personal freedoms above all others, it has more recently become the focus of the 21st century communal need to address the challenges of global warming.

And now for the science…..

This new type of concrete performs a strange alchemy. Hidden within its make up is a catalytic material (nano-crystalline grade of titanium dioxide) that reacts with light to trigger the molecules of air borne pollutants, such as nitric oxides, carbon monoxide and sulphur monoxide to break apart. Daylight initiates a reaction where the active concrete surface converts harmful nitrogen oxides into harmless nitrate, this in turn reacts with the calcium hydroxide of the concrete surface and drains off with the next rainfall into soils where plants can use it.

Catalyst was commissioned by Dundee City Council with DCA as part of the construction of the Greenmarket multi storey car park (the development budget for which also part funded the artwork). Overlooked by the DCA, the sculpture is the first major public art piece for Dundee’s cultural quarter.

The artwork - a considerable technical achievement

The cement was obtained from France a year before it became available in the UK. The Edinburgh based fine art foundry Powderhall Bronze was engaged by the artists to make very accurate moulds of the original draped car, these had to be robust enough to withstand the hydro static pressure of the 13.6 tones of concrete that would be used to create the piece. Powderhall Bronze managed the fabrication part of the project. Border Concrete Products Ltd were precast subcontractors to Powderhall Bronze, responsible for; design liaison and consultation on pre-casting methodology, including advising on fiberglass mould design, mix design including trials of scale models, design and assembly of Peri Vario formwork framework, with design input from Peri. Border Concrete Products were also responsible for final set up, rebar and concrete production and filling and handling of the car. Arup, principal consultant engineers to Powderhall Bronze was responsible for structural design and detailing, critical loadcases including lifting, 3D modeling of car following laser scan of mould, mix design and durability discussions with BCP. Together this team brought considerable expertise to the project and its realisation.

The artists

The Dalziel + Scullion studio is located within the University of Dundee in Scotland. In much of their artworks Dalziel + Scullion explore the subject of ecology, either by re-evaluating our engagement with other species or by looking at aspects of how we interact with our environment. The studio creates artworks in photography, video, sound and sculpture that explore new artistic languages around the subject of ecology.

Dalziel + Scullion have exhibited in national and international exhibitions including the British Art Show and the Venice Biennale and have been awarded numerous awards and prizes including being short-listed for the international Artes Mundi Prize 2008. Dalziel + Scullion have been invited speakers at a number of conferences and symposiums on the subject of art and ecology including: Tipping Point, a conference of invited artists and scientists to explore the wider cultural issues around climate change at the Institute for Climate Impact Research, Potsdam, Berlin; the Scottish Governments Arts and Environment Scotland; Climate Change - Gauging the Temperature at The University of Wales; Art In The Land University of Glasgow; Fieldworks at Tate Modern; and Art and Nature at Tate Britain. For more information the work of the studio see

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