Constructing the Angel of the North

Credit: Institute of Civil Engineers

Today we will learn more about the construction of Antony Gormley's  Angel of the North and attempt to answer whether it does represent the transition from an industrial to an information age as perceived by Gormley at its inception. Above is a computer generated image of the sculpture including its massive foundations which goes a long way towards answering our question. The artist, Antony Gormley and the construction company Insitute of Civil Engineers used the knowledge that now exists thanks to the Information Age  

Credit:Institute of Civil Engineers/

Work began on the project in 1994, and cost £800,000. Most of the project funding was provided by the National Lottery. The Angel was installed on 15 February 1998. It weighs 200 tonnes.

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". (Institute of Civil Engineers)

The two wings weigh 50 tonnes (49 long tons; 55 short tons).

Credit: Twitter

Due to its exposed location, the sculpture was built to withstand winds of over 100 mph (160 km/h). Thus, foundations containing 600 tonnes (590 long tons; 660 short tons) of concrete anchor the sculpture to rock 70 feet (21 m) below...It was made in three parts—with the body weighing 100 tonnes (98 long tons; 110 short tons). (Wikpiedia)

Credit: Pictures of Gateshead

The components were transported in convoy—the body on a 48-wheel trailer—from their construction site in Hartlepool, up the A19 road to the installation site 28 miles (45 km) away; the nighttime journey took five hours and attracted large crowds. (Wikipedia)
Credit: VIEW Pictures

The mound near the A1 motorway which was the designated site of the sculpture was made after the closure of the Lower Tyne Colliery, out of the destroyed remains of the pithead baths. It is a tumulus marking the end of the era of coal mining in Britain.  (

Several maquettes were produced during the development stage of the project. A life-size model from which the sculpture was created was sold at auction for £2.28 million in July 2008. An additional bronze maquette used in fundraising in the 1990s, owned by Gateshead Council, was valued at £1 million on the BBC show Antiques Roadshow on 16 November 2008—the most valuable item ever appraised on the programme. In 2011 German fashion designer Wolfgang Joop sold his life-size maquette (previously kept in the garden of his mansion in Potsdam, Germany) at an auction at Christie's in London for £3.4 million to an anonymous bidder.

Credit: National Gallery of Australia

The ANGEL resists our post-industrial amnesia and bears witness to the hundreds and thousands of colliery workers who had spent the last three hundred years mining coal beneath the surface. The scale of the sculpture was essential given its site in a valley that is a mile and a half a mile wide, and with an audience that was travelling past on the motorway at an average speed of 60 miles an hour.

The exo-skeleton seemed the best solution for transforming a self-supporting fibreglass and lead structure into an object 10 times life-size, or 20 metres high. It uses the Tyneside engineering vernacular of ships and the Tyne Bridge, to produce a strong structure that could withstand the prevailing south-easterly winds. This has the added advantage of giving the form a strong surface articulation that deals equally well with volume and light.

We made a series of models to work out how this was going to work: the challenge was to transfer a rib structure that radiates from a central axis in the bodyform onto the wings, and the solution was to have an increasing distance between the ribs, suggesting a broadcasting of energy. The work stands, without a spolight or a plinth, day and night, in wind, rain and shine and has many friends. It is a huge inspiration to me that the Angel is rarely alone in daylight hours, and as with much of my work, it is given a great deal through the presence of those that visit it. (


I like the Angel of the North very much and for me it does represent a transition from the industrial age to the information age. The materials used for the structure and where it stands links it closely to the industrial age and I just love the fact that the mound on which the Angel stands is made out of the destroyed remains of the pithead baths. And from the little reading I've done and with the very limited knowledge I have about how modern structures of this type are made I am sure modern advances in technology were employed constantly to make this wonderful creation possible.