‘Meccano’ sculpture seen as inspiration for young engineers

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Experts hope that their creation of a 40-metre high piece of public art made from more than 2,000 steel tubes and more than 800 joints will inspire the next generation of engineers and help cement peace in Ireland.

Designers liken building RISE – a new sculpture erected in Belfast – to “trying something really big in Meccano”.

The structure – two concentric spheres, one inside the other, which “hover” above the new Broadway interchange in Belfast – was commissioned by Belfast City Council and conceived as a “symbol of unity and welcome”.

RISE, which cost nearly £500,000, was designed and created by artist Wolfgang Buttress and specialists from London-based engineering firm Price & Myers.

Designers said it contained more than 3,000 parts, each made with “perfect accuracy using robotic fabrication machines”, and was built following the creation of a virtual computer model.

The sculpture’s structural engineer, Tim Lucas, said building RISE was like “putting together a big model kit”.

“I used to like Fishertechnik, a German version of Meccano, when I was a kid,” he said.

“Designing and building structures like RISE is tremendous fun, if quite daunting on this scale.

“I’d like to think that RISE might inspire children putting together the latest model kits with their families over Christmas to be the next generation of engineers.

“We are able to build virtual computer models of structures like this before anything real is made. We can simulate the effects of wind and snow on the sculpture to ensure it will stand up, whatever the weather throws at it.

“Each of the over 3,000 parts were made with perfect accuracy using robotic fabrication machines.”

Mr Buttress added: “In essence the concept is very simple. I wanted to create a sculpture that could be seen and appreciated in the round from any orientation - physical, emotional or political.

“I wanted to suggest the universal, so the sculpture does not have a back or a front. It references the sun and the reeds that were here before us and can be seen as a portal to something less tangible.”

A Price & Myers spokeswoman said RISE was the newest piece of large-scale piece of public art in the UK and based on “geodesic geometry”.