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Kelpies, The

A remarkable example of public art, the Kelpies represent the world's largest equine sculptures, forming a landmark gateway to the eastern end of the Forth and Clyde Canal, where it enters the River Carron, 1½ miles (2.5 km) west of Grangemouth and 2 miles (3 km) northeast of Falkirk. Comprising a pair of immense horse-heads in bright stainless-steel, they take their name from the mystical water horses of Celtic folklore, said to live in the rivers and lochs of Scotland. Modelled on two Clydesdale heavy horses, the sculptures were commissioned by Scottish Canals at a cost of 5 million, and supported by Falkirk Council and the Big Lottery Fund. The work of Glasgow-based artist Andy Scott (b.1964), each sculpture stands 30m (98 feet) in height and weighs 300 tonnes. The sculptures effectively incorporate a sense of movement and comprise a skin of thousands of laser-cut stainless steel plates riveted to a massive steel frame. Towering over the M9 motorway and the canal marina, the sculptor wanted to make a bold statement and ensure the subjects were sufficiently obvious that they did not cause a distraction for drivers on the motorway, who might slow down as they tried to decide what the sculpture represented. The sculptures are intended as a monument to a horse-powered heritage, a time when horses were the mainstay of agricultural production and vital to transportation, pulling carts but also dragging barges along the adjacent canal.

Three-dimensional computer models were created from the artist's original designs by SH Structures, a steel-fabricator in Yorkshire (England), who then built the full-size sculptures and assembled these on-site. Each of the heads rise from a 1600-tonne concrete foundation that is supported by 32-m (105-foot) long piles fixed to bedrock. These foundations were the work of Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering. Each horse-head will be surrounded by a reflecting pool that is designed to enhance its visual appeal, and multi-coloured illumination is switched on at night. HRH the Princess Royal formally opened the site on the 8th July 2015, while a 1.8-million visitor centre opened later the same year.

The Kelpies represent one of the more tangible components of the 43-million Helix project, a ten-year programme intended to redevelop a former industrial area into 300 ha (740 acres) of greenspace, comprising parkland, woodland, walking paths and cycle-ways.


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