Two massive horse-head sculptures, standing up to 30 metres tall and weighing more than 300 tonnes, will soon take pride of place above the Forth & Clyde canal in Scotland.
The steel-plated equine sculptures known as the Kelpies, created by Glasgow-based Andy Scott, are set to form a dramatic gateway in Falkirk at the eastern entrance of the Helix, a major £43 million land transformation project between Falkirk and Grangemouth which will ultimately be a major visitor attraction.
They will sit either side of a specially constructed lock and basin, part of the redeveloped Canal Hub.
The components of the artworks have been produced by SH Structures at its North Yorkshire yard.
The horse-head components will be erected onsite in just 75 days.
In all, 100 separate deliveries of parts will be made to complete the artworks. There are 495 individual “skin” components that form each head.
Preparation work has been ongoing at the site for months and the foundations alone weighs 1600 tonnes.
Erection of the heads is under way this week and is expected to be finished in September.
“The commencement of the freight operation bringing the Kelpies components to site really heralds their arrival on the Scottish landscape,” Scott says.
“This is a huge step towards their construction and will really begin to generate excitement and a sense of anticipation around the project.
“This phase marks the culmination of years of hard work, most recently by SH Structures and the dozens of professionals involved in their design, and I really look forward to seeing The Kelpies rise from the ground at The Helix site.”
Helix programe director Mike King said: “It has been hugely impressive to see the fabrication and assembly process at SH Structures’ yard. It emphasises just how significant an undertaking this is in terms of the collaboration with artist, designer, contractors, and manufacturer.”
SH Structures were awarded the contract to fabricate The Kelpies in May 2012.
The firm has considerable experience in delivering complex steel designs. In Scotland, they created the new footbridge over the M8 motorway at Harthill as well as projects at the Silverburn and Braehead retail developments in Glasgow and at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh.
Horses’ heads were envisaged for the site from the outset, because of the animal’s links to the the region’s industrial heritage and the Scots legend of water-based mythical horses, or kelpies.
Scott’s vision for the Kelpies follows the lineage of the heavy horse of industry and economy, pulling the wagons and ploughs, barges and coalships that shaped the structural layout of the area.
Scott said the the original concept of mythical water horses was a valid starting point for the artistic development of the structures.
“From the original sketches of 2006 I deliberately styled the sculptures as heavy horses. In early proposal documents I referred to Clydesdales, Shires and Percherons, of the fabled equus magnus of the northern countries.
“I wrote of working horses. Of their role in the progress of modern society, as the powerhouses of the early industrial revolution, the tractors of early agriculture and, of course, the first source of locomotion for barges on the Forth & Clyde canal, which The Kelpies will soon inhabit.”
The materials that will make up the finished Kelpies were deliberately chosen to be those of Scotland’s former industrial heartland – steel construction on an architectural scale.