IT has its angel and now Gateshead has earned a Halo too. With the huge town centre revamp about to be revealed in all its glory, the new look is set to be topped off with an eye-grabbing artwork – the largest structure of its kind in the world.
Halo is the name of a stainless steel sculpture specially commissioned by Trinity Square developers Spenhill to be the centrepiece of the £150m redevelopment.
In coming months passers-by will be able to watch it being installed in stages – to the designs of award-winning artist Stephen Newby – and the final result will be a gravity-defying spectacle, stretching 27ft in a loop which by night will be lit up in colour-changing LED lights.
For a town which already boasts Antony Gormley’s world-famous artwork Angel of the North, it is a fitting new addition, being a nod to local roots in the early steel industry and a symbol of renewal as Gateshead celebrates what’s believed to be Britain’s biggest current town centre regeneration outside London.
When Halo – which will be locally made in 300-plus individual sections then installed over 16 weeks – is complete, it will be the world’s biggest structure made in “inflated” stainless steel – 2.5 tons of it.
This means the metal has been treated like blown glass, producing billowing, curving shapes, which metal sculpture artist Stephen, who trained in Lancashire and now works from The Biscuit Factory in Newcastle, said is intended to capture fluidity and energy.
“Halo is an exciting, dynamic piece,” he said. “Technologically it’s moving the boundaries of this technique and its prominent gravity-defying character will, I hope, really add exhilaration to the overall development.
“I hope it strikes a chord with people using the new shops.
“It’s really important that the construction is taking place here in Gateshead. It already feels like it is being born here and belongs to Gateshead.”
It will be in place later this year within a public area of Trinity Square, near the former Get Carter car park site, and seating will be made around it, following the curves of the sculpture, so people can sit and enjoy the view.
Mick Henry, leader of Gateshead Council, said: “To me, Halo is a really exciting work, not just in artistic terms but in what it means for Gateshead.
“It will be the work of skilled Gateshead craftsmen and it will be setting new standards in this particular field of engineering.”
He added: “Gateshead’s belief in the importance of public art is well known.
“Works like The Angel of the North have become the signature of not only Gateshead but our entire region.
“In this time and age opportunities for Gateshead Council to lead the creation of large-scale public art are not as common as they once were.
“But we can still influence and ensure that developments like Trinity Square take our ethos on public art into account.”
The re-development by Spenhill, a subsidiary of Tesco, is due to open on May 23, with a Tesco Extra store, 45 new retail units, a cinema, health facilities and accommodation for almost 1,000 students – and just as many jobs are expected to be created in retail and leisure.
The final stone in Trinity Square was laid on Thursday morning by Tesco store manager Marc Smith, Coun Henry, builder Bowmer and Kirkland projects director Paul Dodsworth, Northumbria University vice-chancellor Professor Andrew Wathey and NHS Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group finance director Joe Corrigan.
Doug Wilson, Tesco corporate affairs manager, said: “Gateshead has a well-earned reputation as a showcase for stunning public art and Halo continues that theme.”
The construction is taking place here in Gateshead. It already feels like it is being born here