The Angel of the North

Year:1998

Duration:4 years

Cost:£800k

Country: UK

What did this project achieve?

Install 200 tonnes landmark steel statue on a remote hillside

The Angel of the North is a contemporary sculpture designed by Antony Gormley and located in north east England.

It’s a steel sculpture of an angel 20m (66 ft) high with 54m (177ft) wings. It took 4-6 months to build by 20 steelworkers working full-time. The foundations took several weeks to lay – but erecting the statue took just four days.

The sculpture was built at Hartlepool Steel Fabrications from Corten weather-resistant steel which also includes a small percentage of copper that gives the sculpture its distinctive colouring.

The Angel’s wings are not straight sideways but angled 3.5 degrees forward to create "a sense of embrace".

According to Gormley, he chose an angel for the sculpture:

  • to recognise the sacrifice of the miners who had worked beneath the site of its construction for two centuries
  • to represent the transition from an industrial to an information age
  • to serve as a focus for our evolving hopes and fears
A computer generated image of the sculpture including its massive foundations

A computer generated image of the sculpture including its massive foundations

Difference the project has made

The Angel has been praised for its positive affect on the Gateshead area including a huge uplift in tourism, attracting visitors, promoting the area, and also for helping create a new identity for the region to increase investment.

A report commissioned by Gateshead Council and produced by independent research and consultancy firm ERS 10 years after the sculpture was erected said that visitor numbers, business start-ups and employment would not have increased as fast.

How it was done

The sculpture stands on an exposed hillside where winds can reach over 100mph. This, combined with the huge wing span and the risk of wind pressure affecting just one wing (resulting in a ‘twist’ pressure effect), was a huge challenge for the engineers designing its foundations.

The engineers noted that as humans we lean to adjust to the loading imposed by gusts of wind but the statue had to withstand these forces in a static state. So the connection of the wings to the body, the strength of the ankles and the statue in the ground all had to be carefully calculated.

Engineers also had to be certain they understood the ground conditions to make sure the gigantic statue would be properly secured – so testing and surveying was vitally important too.

To create the substantial foundations for the Angel the site on the hill next to the A1 was first cleared Then old mine workings found underneath were filled with grouting and eight 3m holes drilled for the steel reinforced concrete piles. A 1.5m concrete cap was then poured and the final 5.3m plinth constructed.

After a trial assembly in Hartlepool the body and two wings were transported to the site on three low loader trucks to the site – at a maximum speed of 15mph.

Putting the Angel together was quite straightforward in engineering terms. The 52 long bolts in the plinth aligned with plates in the bottom of the statue which the body was lowered onto.

The next step was to crane the wings into position. Wings and body were bolted together and then welded. Then the skin plates were welded into place.

The final stage of the project was to replace the landscape of the hill, clear the workings and turf with grass.

 

The sculpture's massive head under construction

The sculpture's massive head under construction

“​‌

The hilltop site is important and has the feeling of being a megalithic mound. When you think of the mining that was done underneath the site, there is a poetic resonance. Men worked beneath the surface in the dark. Now in the light, there is a celebration of this industry.

Anthony Gormley

Artist & Designer

Fascinating facts

At 54m the wing span of the Angel is bigger than a Boeing 767 plane

The foundations contain 600 tonnes of concrete which anchor the sculpture to solid rock

The Angel’s body weighs 100 tonnes and each wing 50 tonnes

The sculpture was created from over 3,000 individual pieces of steel

“​‌

The team's success in creating the Angel is due to collaboration. Antony, Gateshead Council, the fabricators at Hartlepool Steel and our own engineers in Newcastle and London each brought particular skills to the project and respected each other's knowledge and ability. We have brought the artist's vision to life and given Gateshead a unique landmark.

John Thornton

Project Director

People who made it happen

  • Artist and designer: Anthony Gormley
  • Engineers: Ove Arup & Partners
  • Fabricators: Hartlepool Steel

More about this project

Explore more civil engineering projects

I want to become a civil engineer.

See how your studies lead to a civil engineering career

The job you end up with in civil engineering is likely to link back to what you studied at school, college or university. Here you can see your options at any age.

At school

Up to 16 years

School / college

16-19 years

College / university

18 years +

Change career

Any age