A steely eye on city

Man of Steel sculpture, Tinsley
Man of Steel sculpture, Tinsley

A 40-METRE-high Man of Steel has stepped forward as the first potential candidate for a work of art in the wake of the demolition of the Tinsley cooling towers.

The sculpture is being proposed as a landmark for the region as the council prepares to launch a brief for designers and engineers for a major installation next to the M1.

A 20-metre-high stainless steel figure sitting on a 20-metre black column, it would be twice the height of the Angel of the North in Gateshead and is designed to represent the metals and coal mining history of the area while encouraging new investment.

The work has been created by local sculptor Steve Mehdi and has already received support from Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, Rotherham Council and a number of public and private sector organisations. It will eventually be assessed alongside other suggestions as part of the council’s initiative.

Mr Mehdi said: “The design embodies the generations of workers who have passed through numerous factory gates and left their mark and their memories on the landscape.

“Enshrined in a mantle of steel and coal, it is an icon of a former age and a catalyst for a new one. It looks inward, contemplating the past, but looks out on an ever-changing landscape of technology and invention.

“This project falls into a long tradition of monumental sculptures in society. It is about scale. People have always been affected and inspired by the awesome nature of the colossal. The statue delivers a message saying, ‘We are big, we are modern and we can take on the world’.”

Sheffield Chamber believes the project can spearhead celebrations in 2013 marking the centenary of Harry Brearley’s invention of stainless steel, as well as becoming a signpost for regeneration.

Executive director Richard Wright said: “The statue not only recognises this city region’s heritage, but will symbolise how this area is at the forefront of the latest innovations in manufacturing and engineering technologies and making a name in exciting new sectors.

“It will cover the transition from conventional manufacturing to advanced industry sectors using companies such as Rolls Royce, BSkyB, Zoo Digital and Sheffield International Venues. It will also provide a platform to inform and inspire the next generation of skilled employees.”

The location, a former landfill site overlooking the M1 and Meadowhall, close to where the cooling towers used to stand, will be provided by Waste Recycling Group.

The council is preparing a design brief for a major public art installation as part of wider regeneration plans for the Lower Don Valley.

Cabinet member Coun Helen Mirfin-Boukouris said: “We have not decided what the artwork will look like – this will be the job of the artist and engineer teams but what we do anticipate is that the artwork will be a statement for Sheffield.”

The estimated cost is up to £4m, with £500,000 already committed by energy company E.On, which demolished the towers three years ago and is building a biomass plant near the viaduct. No council money is envisaged.