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Gallery floats to site as design turns to steel

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UKENGINEERS are working up plans to float an entire $28M art gallery from a shipyard in Belfast, Ireland to Margate on England's south east coast.

The three storey Turner Contemporary (formerly the Turner Centre) is to be built in the North Sea, 8m away from Margate harbour's breakwater (NCEI February).

The building was originally conceived as a concrete structure, but a recent switch to steel has prompted engineers to consider shipbuilding techniques.

Structural engineer Whitbybird had opted for concrete to withstand high wave loads of up to 250kN/m 2.But concrete construction could take longer than the 30 month construction period.

Work is scheduled to start in January.

Building a cofferdam, getting formwork into position and bringing large quantities of concrete to site would all take too much time.

Shipbuilder Harland & Wolff, famed for building the Titanic, has been approached to build the steel structure in its Belfast shipyard.

'The art gallery structure is very similar to the bow of a ship - we can construct it in our sheltered dock in a controlled environment and then float it to England, ' said Harland & Wolff sales manager David McVeigh.

This method of construction limits on-site work to piling.

English Nature also prefers offsite construction as it would minimise disruption to migrating birds.

The structure could be towed to the site on a barge, although Harland & Wolff is advising Whitbybird on how to float the structure to Margate.

'We're looking at how we can use the basement storage tanks to help float the structure, ' said McVeigh.

Steelwork contractor Cleveland Bridge, which is also bidding for the contract, would build the entire structure beside the site and slide it into position.

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