The Helix project - The Kelpies

Entered by SH Structures Ltd

A public art project

The Kelpies form the centrepiece of the Helix project in Falkirk. The scheme includes the construction of an extension to the existing Forth and Clyde canal with a new lock and turning pool for vessels accessing the Forth of Firth. The Kelpies were the concept of Glasgow born sculptor Andy Scott, who, from presenting original concept drawings, went on to produce two sets of 1/10th scale mock-ups or maquettes, which were used as the basis of the final piece produced by SH Structures.

The two heads are created using a complex tubular steel internal frame to which an outer layer of secondary members is attached. The external finish or skin is formed using a series of laser cut stainless steel plates that are secured to brackets on the secondary frame work. As well as providing the two steel structures and the external cladding SH Structures are also responsible for the high tech digital lighting scheme that will transform the appearance of the two heads at night. The site is situated close to the M9 motorway which will mean the Kelpies will be seen by thousands of passing motorists every day when completed in November 2013. Once open to the public the Kelpies will become a 'must see' attraction on the Scottish tourist trail hopefully becoming an internationally recognised piece of public art.

Significant savings for the client

From the outset SH Structures worked very closely with the clients team and the sculptor Andy Scott to ensure that the original aesthetics of the two horses heads remained as close to those of the 1/10th scale models produced as the basis of the scheme. This had to be achieved whilst maintaining a structural design that would satisfy the loads imposed on these 30m high structures. Horses heads by their nature are complex forms and the ability to accurately develop a 3d model using Tekla Structures played an important part in the development of this technically challenging project. Turning the 3D model into fabricated steel sections that could be delivered and safely erected on site formed the next challenge. SH Structures extensive experience of off-site manufacture and trial assembly of large sections ensuring first time fit on site was brought into play very early on.

Having a client with a clear vision and an artist who was supportive throughout the project was essential to the projects overall success. The close working relationship with the team enabled the many challenges to be tackled and problems overcome with the minimum of effort. After a rigorous prequalification and tender process SH Structures secured this major project on a design and build basis. With tenders coming in over budget SH Structures undertook to redesign the internal support structure and as a result were able to generate significant savings for the client in the order of £700,000 allowing the project to proceed through to completion.