50th Anniversary Sculpture - Ulster University, Coleraine
"The Towards tomorrow sculpture project has been a true multi-generational, community endeavour. We are delighted that this iconic landmark will be visible for all to see and enjoy for years to come."
- Prof. Paddy Nixon, Ulster University,
Vice-Chancellor and President
The sculpture’s name is taken from a quotation in The Coleraine Chronicle of November 2, 1968, when Ulster University’s Coleraine campus first opened its doors. The relief text band around the plinth comes from an oration at the public opening service: ‘to teach and research for the next generation to pass on knowledge and more’, along with the quote, ‘Land of Saints and Scholars’, which originated from a speech by the vice-chancellor at the university’s first graduation ceremony. The wrap around, concrete poured pathway has no beginning or end – and acknowledges the nearby town names of Ballymoney and Limavady which are laser-cut into stainless steel.
The sculpture depicts a figure wearing a graduate’s gown – the student is both male and female. It soars up high, reaching out with inquisitive reasoning to seek knowledge. The student has lifted from the ground a fieldtrip quadrant, and is looking upwards through it, applying lateral, blue-sky thinking (de Bono) to research and knowledge. The quadrant is also representative of a mortar board being tipped to the town – so the top of the sculpture echoes its foundation.
The plinth is circular, representing ‘one strong, united community’, and on closer inspection, it incorporates bas-relief tiles inset at eye-level, created by pupils from secondary level schools within the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough, as well as several members from the local U3A group, resulting in a community-wide artwork that spans generations. A sixth-year pupil, Laura, wrote after her week in the studio working on the sculpture: “The experience in itself was fantastic – seeing how the skills we learn in school can actually be applied in real life, towards a career.”
There are three step heights within the first sculpted section, symbolic of the productive and progressive triangular relationship between the university, the community and business. They support sculpted objects from academia, research, music and sporting achievement, underscoring how the university is intrinsic to the borough and the important connection between ‘town and gown’, eg. the rugby ball, hurling stick, salmon etc.
As sculptor and project manager of ‘Towards Tomorrow’, working with a new research and development material brought weekly – if not daily – issues: the viscosity of the pour; the height of pour permitted; the transportation of the soft, large clay form; galvanised rebar with sharp edges inside soft flexible silicon moulds; and tight tolerance level of the bolt holes. Each problem was overcome by end of each day, with another generally taking its place. The team stayed strong and ‘Towards Tomorrow’ was delivered on budget, on time and welcomed those arriving for the Golf Open in July 2019!
The Provost commented on completion of the project, “I am confident in the months and years ahead that ‘Towards Tomorrow’ will continue to be enjoyed by and enrich our local community, and am delighted that, in the spirit of partnership, we have produced such a strong symbol of the university’s legacy in this area.”
Much like the growing oak seedling embedded as a relief in the plinth, ‘Towards Tomorrow’ emboldens us to extend ourselves, grasp opportunities and ascend to new heights in each of our specialised areas.
[Open information Box]
Towards Tomorrow sculpture
Commissioner: Ulster University, Coleraine
In collaboration with: The Garfield Weston Trust, The Honourable The Irish Society, Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council and local Businesses.
Sculptor: Sara Cunningham-Bell
Size: 9m high, widest diameter 1.2m
Medium: Calcined clay concrete Process: Sculpted to full-scale, silicon bagged, then poured with self-compacting calcined clay concrete with plasticiser for flow
Weight: 14.5 tonnes
Site: The Lodge Road Roundabout, Coleraine, Northern Ireland
Kingspan Ravenhill Stadium
'TEAMSHIP' - Home to Ulster Rugby, (IRFU and DECAL)
has a long lifespan expectation, made from durable material.
Commissioner: Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) and Department of Culture of Art and Leisure (DCAL)
Commission period: three months
Description of commission including site location of final piece:
This was a public sculpture commission for an area which is viewable from Mount Merrion Avenue Belfast, and in the grounds of the Kingspan, Ravenhill Rugby Stadium. It was requested for the design to be:
an educational tool to all generations, personally interactive, promote the game of rugby and the stadium as Rugby Ulster’s home, whilst meeting health and safety requirements within the public realm.
Budget - was tight for the size of site and the requested aims for the project, yet made manageable due to the materials and style chosen.
Site Character - is long and narrow (100 x 6 metres), on a steep slope as a recycled, soft land mass. This necessitated laying special foundation designs to firmly secure the 6 metre high by 90 metre long sculpture form, and a particular awareness at installation for the safety of all employees arriving onto the sloped and busy site.
Media - steel: powder coated over galvanised surface, stainless, high strength low alloy steel were chosen for their high durability and long life span, as a senior Ulster rugby staff said: “the sculpture will be here longer than the stadium”.
The steel is a reflection on East Belfast’s steel industry as it looks down over this area of Belfast. It also provides a maintenance level of Zero to low, e.g. the design detail of the powder coated (to Stadium RAV colour) information line is raised by 50mm for ease of maintenance, and enables the budget restraint to be met alongside the design brief.
Access - People have access to the installation at all times and are able to walk safely amongst the sculpture figures of varying heights and read the information red line, or /and search for the hidden mini rugby balls incorporated within the steel installation. Two kerbs are lowered to provide access to the non-ambulant person.
Light – The sculpture is designed to create negative and positive shapes by being cast over the site with the strength and movement of the sun and tungsten light. It is symbolic of the coaching approach for the mini rugby player “Run at the space not the face”. The countersunk swivel lighting throws shadows out at night time, and being strategically placed, it increases safety whilst fans (18,000 at a home game) move across and through the sculpture installation. It is appropriately lit as a 24 hour, accessible public sculpture walk.
“The new sculpture is absolutely magnificent and incorporates all the values that Ulster Rugby holds dear - namely exclusivity, teamwork and sporting excellence. I would like to thank Sara for her vision and her remarkable ability in creating such a wonderful piece of art.”
- John Kinnear,
President of the IRFU (Ulster Branch)
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