The Angel of the North is a magnificent modern structure in Gateshead, near Newcastle. While the sculptures unusual appearance initially attracted some local controversy, the Angel is now warmly regarded as a landmark of the North East and was chosen as one of the UK’s twelve official ‘Icons of England'.
Antony Gormley, creator of the Angel of the North, wanted his sculpture to convey "a sense of embrace," so he gave the Angel a massive wingspan of 175ft. As it stands at the entrance of Tyneside, the Angel’s inviting, wide-open wings succeed in warmly welcoming many visitors to Newcastle and Gateshead. In addition to its huge wingspan, the sculpture is 65ft tall, which is the equivalent of more than four double decker buses. The imposing size of this 208-tonne creation makes the name ‘Angel’ seem almost too delicate to be appropriate.
The Angel of the North stands on the site of a former colliery, acting as a constant reminder of the area’s coal mining past. However, this location is rather exposed, which meant that the Angel had to be built to withstand harsh winds of over 100mph. To tackle this problem, a whopping 165 tonnes of concrete was used to create a foundation for the sculpture, anchoring it firmly into 66ft of rocky ground. The coating of the Angel also had to be weatherproof, so it was created out of weather-resistant steel that contains copper. This steel gives the sculpture its beautiful, warm reddish colour and will help the creation to last for at least a century.
Work started on the massive steel structure in 1994 and the project cost around £1million to complete. The Angel was cast in three separate pieces – the body and two wings - at Hartlepool Steel Fabrications Ltd. After casting, the body alone weighed a massive 110 tonnes, whereas the vast wings weighed an enormous 55 tonnes each.
Speaking of his Angel, Gormley said: “I’m just interested in making the world a more exciting place to live.” As his creation is now enjoyed by around 150,000 visitors per year, as well as being admired by over 90,00 motorists a day, he can certainly claim to have achieved his goal.
In February 2008, the Angel of the North celebrates its tenth birthday. To mark the occasion, Gateshead Council is planning a year of special events and activities. For more details, visit their site http://www.gateshead.gov.uk.