The view from here

Atkins | 10 Dec 2007 | Comments

Couple – a statue by artist Sean Henry – stands looking out over the waters of Newbiggin Bay, Northumberland, in the UK, as part of a major coastal defence project. But is it a practical structure or a work of art? Perhaps a bit of both.

“Someone pointed out to me a long time ago that if you cast a human head and hold it in your hands, it’s quite a disagreeable object, it’s a scary thing, so I tend to make my figures either smaller or larger than life,” explains artist Sean Henry, in an interview with Sveriges Television in Sweden.

His latest work, Couple fits his modus operandi: the two painted bronze figures are roughly five metres tall, and stand some 230m out to sea on what the artist’s website describes as “a newly built island breakwater, designed to protect the town and the new beach at Newbiggin-By-The-Sea.“

This is part of a £10m regeneration and coastal protection scheme implemented by Northumberland Strategic Partnership (NSP), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Wansbeck District Council.

Atkins has worked in close partnership with Wansbeck District Council on the project for the last ten years, from the technical aspects of the breakwater construction and artwork installation to consultation on various aspects of the regeneration scheme in place along the coast.

Terry Boulton, Atkins’ project supervisor, said the work began with a survey to establish seabed levels for the breakwater, while the huge inter-locking concrete blocks that were used to build up the sea defence structure were manufactured at a Port of Blyth site at Battleship Wharf, Cambois.

According to Ian Heijne, the chief engineer and project director for Atkins, “this whole project has been really important for the local community. The work on the breakwater has effectively given the people back their beach and generated greater interest in the area for further potential development.

“As for Couple, it provided Atkins with a unique opportunity to integrate artwork into the engineering design of the breakwater structure,” says Heijne. “The structure’s design has provided a focus for the whole project team to rise to the challenge.”

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