Client: University of Keele, UK
Location: Keele, United Kingdom
Completion date: 2012
Artwork budget: $77,277
Birch Engineering Ltd
Burgess Design Associates (lighting)
There was a national competition for the commission. The brief was to design a sculpture to celebrate 50th Anniversary of Keele University for their Union Square, taking into consideration that students of many nationalities study a wide range of subjects at Keele. 40 tall polished stainless steel columns and 10 short columns (50 in all) support a round table in the centre on which the motto of the university is engraved: ‘Search for truth in the company of friends’. The area of the sculpture is 20ft diameter. The artist also collaborated on the paving design.
The principal goal was to mark the 50th anniversary of the University and to design a sculptural work that would be the centre piece of the main university square, around which already existed an historic building, a listed chapel, the main library and the Student Union building which was being renovated, plus a number of shops. Union square was being totally re-designed and pedestrianisedat the time, most of the design having been completed before the commission was awarded, except the paving. It was important that the sculpture was sympathetic to the buildings and would be of a suitable scale to occupy the centre of the square.
The artist works with a team of engineers, Birch Engineering Ltd, to produce her work. She made models and drawings from which structural engineers produced calculations and engineering drawings. The artist and her engineers worked with the site engineers on the foundations for the sculpture, a robust stainless steel structure embedded in a deep excavation and infilled with concrete. The artist also collaborated with the lighting engineers on site to install colour-change uplighters at the foot of the columns. The paving design was a collaboration between the artist and the landscape designer and had to accommodate the circularity of the sculpture and the lighting. The local authority gave planning consent for the project. The artist met with local council officers, university administrators, staff and student representatives to discuss all aspects of the project.
I wanted to create a sculpture that could be experienced by walking through it or sitting at its centre to think or meet friends and chat. The sculpture is a central feature of the university since its installation, it is a favourite background for photos at graduation and other events. It has maintained its excellent condition without maintenance.