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Fabricating

Scottish horsepower

By Gretchen Salois

Above: Fabricators used 6 mm-thick grade 316 stainless steel sheets that were laser-cut to give the impression of a larger number of panels while retaining a degree of transparency within the subject.

This story was originally published here as a web exclusive and updated for the July/August 2016 Top WebEx issue.

Steel behemoths stand tall, a fabricating feat

July/August 2016 - Artist Andy Scott was appointed to create public art that makes a statement about Scotland. His interpretation of the country’s deep industrial heritage resulted in two colossal Clydesdale horses, similar to those used to help build the Scottish Canals. Since 2013, the display—standing 30 meters tall—has brought in more than 2 million visitors to Falkirk, a town with a population of 50,000. The new face of tourism in Scotland, The Kelpies stand tall along the A9 motorway about 26 miles  from Edinburgh.

Scott usually creates pieces in a Glasgow studio, but the sheer size of the project required assistance from many hands. Atkins, a design, engineering and project management consultancy, came in to scan the maquettes Scott created in order to develop 3-D models. “Working from the external skin, Atkins developed an internal structural frame that would support the external cladding,” says Tim Burton, sales and marketing manager at SH Structures Limited. 

FFJ 07816 kelpie image1

The tubular skeleton is bent and fabricated from grade 355 CHS sections produced by Tata Steel.

Scott created an internal frame to which he welded hundreds of small, individual steel plates, giving the finished piece a degree of transparency, Burton says. The sculptures were then galvanized, giving them an initial shiny appearance. It was challenging to find a method to recreate this technique on such a massive scale.

Fabrication breakdown

Going from smaller models to large-scale sculptures is where SH Structures, located in Sherburn-in-Elmet, North Yorkshire, England, came in, bringing its experience with challenging fabrication projects.

On the much larger versions, fabricators used grade 316 stainless steel sheets, 6mm thick, that were laser-cut to give the impression of a larger number of panels while retaining the open effect of the models, says Burton.

The skin of the horses is made from grade 316 stainless steel with an unpolished mill finish. Inside, the tubular skeleton is fabricated from grade 355 CHS sections produced by Tata Steel. 

FFJ 07816 kelpie image2

Artist Andy Scott created an internal frame, to which he welded hundreds of 6mm thick stainless steel plates.

“The mild steel tubular sections were the obvious choice to provide a cost-effective solution to creating such a complex shape of this scale,” according to Burton, who compares it with a series of trusses and horizontal diaphragms. SH Structures had to create numerous jigs for the Kelpies piece. Drawings for jigs were produced by SH Structures’ 3-D CAD operators, then fabricators and welders built the structures in stages, creating large sub-assemblies. 

“Welding the thousands of uniquely positioned brackets correctly takes great skill and it was sometimes physically hard to gain access to carry out the welds,” Burton recalls. “But all these difficulties were overcome and out of 34,000 pieces, only a handful needed any on-site modifications.”

Steel statement

Completed in 90 days, each of The Kelpies weighs over 300 metric tons. Over 1,200 metric tons of steel-reinforced concrete foundations per head and 928 unique stainless steel skin-plates were used to complete the installation. 

Meanwhile, The Kelpies Maquettes, scale models of The Kelpies, have logged significant mileage in their quest to spread the news since traveling from their home in Falkirk to Edinburgh and Chicago, and also appearing in Bryant Park in New York City during Scotland week in 2014.

FFJ 07816 kelpie image3

The skin of the horses is made from grade 316 stainless steel with an unpolished mill finish.

The Helix, home to The Kelpies, is a parkland project built in 2001 to connect 16 communities in the Falkirk Council Area of Scotland. It also houses the Falkirk Wheel, a rotating boatlift connecting the Forth and Clyde canals with the Union Canal. This project, and the park overall, is rooted in efforts to reconnect Glasgow with Edinburgh and revitalize contiguous areas.

Among some of the awards The Kelpies won are the Saltire Society Scotland Award for Civil Engineering, U.K. Structural Engineering Award, Landmark of the Year (by the BBC), Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, Award for Tourism, and National Treasure as decided by the U.K. National Lottery. 

The artist Scott’s personal connection to Falkirk, where his father was raised, was an inspiration for him. His depiction of the strength of Scotland and its history deeply rooted in the industrial revolution stands as a “testament to achievements of the past, a tribute to artisanship and engineering and a proud declaration of intent for the future of Scotland,” says Scott.

FFJ 07816 kelpie image4

The Kelpies have become a familiar symbol, used in tourism campaigns both by Visit Scotland and Visit Great Britain campaigns and appear regularly in Scottish media. Scott won two honorary degrees from Scottish universities and a book about The Kelpies is now in its second print run. 

The artist shows no signs of slowing down. “I am incredibly busy right now,” he says, adding he opened another exhibition in Glasgow earlier this year. FFJ

This story was originally published as a web exclusive and updated for the July/August 2016 Top WebEx issue.

Sources

  • Andy Scott Public Art
    Glasgow, U.K.
    phone: 44 0 141 946 3040
     
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