Cracked, hovering, leaning and knotted chimney sculptures to replace Sheffield's Tinsley Towers in huge £450,000 canalside art trail

A mile-long trail of four sculptural, red-brick chimneys each stretching up to 100 feet high will replace Sheffield's demolished Tinsley Towers in a £450,000 public artwork billed as one of the most ambitious ever conceived.

Tuesday, 19th September 2017, 12:59 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th September 2017, 11:12 am
An artist's impression showing the one-mile sculpture trail in its entirety

Onwards and Upwards - the name of the city's biggest art commission in history, designed by sculptor Alex Chinneck - will be installed along a stretch of the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal, starting close to the M1 viaduct.

Each permanent structure is the size of a 10-storey building, and together they have a collective height of 150 metres, incorporating 100,000 specially-made curving bricks wrapped around a stainless steel core.

An artist's impression showing the one-mile sculpture trail in its entirety

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Taken in order, the four elements comprise a cracked chimney broken into 250 pieces, illuminated from within; a 'hovering' chimney with an upper section that appears to float; two leaning chimneys standing 45 metres apart that bridge the canal; and a curving chimney tied into a knot.

Sheffield Council, which is leading the project, hopes the artwork will attract visitors from across the UK, offering an 'immersive experience' that can be enjoyed on foot, by bike or boat.

A completion date has been set for summer 2019, coinciding with the canal's 200th anniversary.

The Tinsley cooling towers were knocked down almost a decade ago, and once stood beside the motorway bridge near Meadowhall, acting as a huge beacon and a gateway to the region.

An artist's impression of the 'cracked chimney', which will be lit up from within

Alex, who has been drawing up the designs with his studio team for a year, said: "Tinsley has a proud and important industrial heritage and many chimneys once lined the canal. Through a process of architectural re-introduction, sculptural re-imagination and modern manufacturing, we have attempted to create a regionally relevant and nationally significant cultural attraction."

As many Sheffield firms as possible will be hired to help with the chimneys' construction, he added.

"The artwork is being made for Sheffield, by Sheffield, and represents a monumental achievement that is only possible by working in partnership with the unrivalled concentration of world-class companies found in the city.”

His previous projects include an upside-down, 35-metre electricity pylon, balanced on its tip, and a melting house made of 7,500 wax bricks.

An artist's impression of the 'hovering chimney', with an upper section that appears to float

Last week Alex brought one of his earlier works, a one-tonne overturned car hanging from a curling strip of Tarmac, to Sheffield Road, Tinsley, where it pulled in 5,000 visitors.

Local creative talent was called upon to work on Onwards and Upwards, including illustrator Ella Worthington, photographers Martin Hogg and Marc Wilmot, Lunar Animation and drone specialists Fleye. A project board was also assembled, made up of Tinsley residents and key city figures.

Coun Mary Lea, the council's cabinet member for culture, parks and leisure, said: "Alex’s proposal is truly born of the place - knitting together its fascinating past and present, and evolving through collaboration with local businesses. We hope this permanent sculpture will be embraced by the community and enjoyed by people from far and wide."

Partners on the project are Rotherham Council, the Tinsley Forum and Arts Council England, as well as energy firm Eon, which put up the funding. Extra money has been pledged by Meadowhall's owners and Ikea. Landowners Yorkshire Water and the Canal and River Trust are also backing the scheme together with the city's Cultural Consortium and the Industrial Museums Trust.

An artist's impression of the leaning chimneys that will bridge the Sheffield & Tinsley Canal

Luke Ellis, site manager at Eon's Blackburn Meadows biomass plant in Tinsley, said the company wanted to support an artwork 'with a theme of energy', reflecting the site's past and looking to the future, while Tim Eastop, of the Canal and River Trust, said the commission would allow people to see waterways as 'fantastic places to relax, reflect and enjoy art'.

Alex will discuss the plans in a meeting at Sheffield Town Hall tomorrow from 7.30pm.

Visit www.onwardsandupwards.info for details.

An artist's impression of the knotted chimney
Chimneys on the landscape in the old industrial Lower Don Valley
The Tinsley Towers, knocked down in 2008
Alex Chinneck with the earlier work that was brought to Sheffield last week
An artist's impression showing the one-mile sculpture trail in its entirety
An artist's impression of the 'cracked chimney', which will be lit up from within
An artist's impression of the 'hovering chimney', with an upper section that appears to float
An artist's impression of the leaning chimneys that will bridge the Sheffield & Tinsley Canal
An artist's impression of the knotted chimney
Chimneys on the landscape in the old industrial Lower Don Valley
The Tinsley Towers, knocked down in 2008
Alex Chinneck with the earlier work that was brought to Sheffield last week