New park in Falkirk hosts Scotland's largest art installation

The world's largest equine sculptures have opened to the public in a park in central Scotland.

The Kelpies under construction
The Kelpies under construction

The 300 tonne, 30 metre tall horse heads designed by Glaswegian artist Andy Scott and engineered by Atkins are called The Kelpies and are part of the new 350 hectare Helix Park in Falkirk.

They are the biggest art installation in the country and form a dramatic entrance to the Forth and Clyde canal which crosses central Scotland. It is hoped the sculptures will draw 350,000 visitors to the area each year. Visitors are able to follow guided tours and walk inside the sculptures to examine the complex internal structure.

John Bullock, Atkins’ principal engineer, said: "The engineering of the Kelpies was extremely technical and involved a number of challenges. For example, the idea that visitors would be allowed inside the horse heads meant that we couldn’t engineer normal central support columns to counteract the force of wind that the Kelpies would be exposed to on an open site. Because of this we had to place vertical supports at the front and back of the horse heads close to the horse’s ‘skin’ so the visual of the internal structure for visitors wasn’t compromised."

Design, engineering and project management consultancy Atkins has been involved in the project since its beginning in 2008, when it completed the initial feasibility study for Scottish Canals, a public corporation that is part of the Scottish government.

The company then worked with Scott throughout, from providing feedback on his initial maquette designs to working out out how best to achieve the horse skin appearance that he envisaged.

The Kelpies were based on mythological water horses which inhabit lochs and rivers in Scottish legend. Before they even got to the park they attracted international attention, with scale 1:10 models displayed in US locations - Grant Park, Chicago, Purdue University, Indiana, and most recently, Bryant Park, New York.

A programme called ‘Creating The Kelpies’ will air tonight (TUESDAY) at 9pm on BBC2 Scotland.

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