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"It's many years since I was first approached to design these equine giants as a feature on the Forth & Clyde Canal. What started as a simple line drawing has evolved into incredibly complex artworks engaging dozens of top construction professionals. The Kelpies will focus the eyes of the world on The Helix and the Falkirk & Grangemouth area, and will truly live up to the 'Living Landmark' initiative under which they were awarded funding by Big Lottery.” Andy Scott, Sculptor
 

Creating The Kelpies

Inspired

The original concept of mythical water horses was a valid starting point for the artistic development of the structures, but from his original sketches of 2006, Andy Scott deliberately styled the sculptures as heavy horses.

The artistic process involved countless more sketches, using real life models Duke and Baron, to determine the true form of a Clydesdale's head. Andy used photographs and sculpted bronze models. Clay was the early medium for the Kelpie design, as Andy shaped the mane, neck and eyes to match those of Duke and Baron.

Hand crafted

In forming the first set of 1:10 maquettes, Andy hand welded the individual skin plates onto the steel subframe. This first set of maquettes formed the backdrop to the successful bid to BIG Lottery, unleashing the £25 million Living Landmarks funding that would take The Helix project from concept to reality as part of a total budget of £43 million.

Andy then set to work creating the more detailed second set of maquettes, which would be scanned by laser to ignite the design of the full scale, 30-metre-high sculptures. This scanning required tremendous computing power, such was the accuracy of detail required.

During the design phase of the full-size Kelpies, many engineering challenges were faced, not least in recreating the look and impression of the many small plates which formed the skin of the initial maquettes.

Up for the challenge

Weighing 300 tonnes each, The Kelpies are fabricated from structural steel with stainless steel cladding, designed to withstand the elements as they guard the new canal tunnel under the M9 motorway.

Creating these colossal horse's heads has been a welcome challenge for Yorkshire-based SH Structures, who were awarded the £5 million contract to fabricate and construct the sculptures. 

As fabrication got under way, Andy was invited to Yorkshire to see the huge pieces of steel being formed and shaped, welded and aligned; pieces so striking they often appeared as artworks in their own right.

The sheer scale of the build hit home when SH Structures announced they had no room left in their sizeable warehouses or storage yards! Arrangements were made to house some of the structural parts in Falkirk, and soon huge lorries of steel started to arrive, ready for construction to start in June 2013.

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an idea is born