B of the Bang

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B of the Bang
B of the Bang (landscape).jpg
Artist Thomas Heatherwick
Year2005 (2005)–2009 (2009)
TypeMetal sculpture
Dimensions56 m(184 ft) [1]
Location Beswick, Manchester, England
Coordinates 53°28′55″N2°11′46″W / 53.48194°N 2.19611°W / 53.48194; -2.19611 Coordinates: 53°28′55″N2°11′46″W / 53.48194°N 2.19611°W / 53.48194; -2.19611

B of the Bang was a sculpture by Thomas Heatherwick next to the City of Manchester Stadium in Manchester, England, which was commissioned to mark the 2002 Commonwealth Games; it was one of the tallest structures in Manchester and the tallest sculpture in the UK until the completion of Aspire in 2008. It was taller and leaned at a greater angle than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The sculpture took its name from a quotation of British sprinter Linford Christie, in which he said that he started his races not merely at the "bang" of the starting pistol, but at "the B of the Bang".

Thomas Heatherwick English designer and architect

Thomas Alexander Heatherwick, CBE, RDI, HonFREng is an English designer and the founder of London-based design practice Heatherwick Studio. Since the late 1990s Heatherwick has emerged as one of Britain's most significant designers. Heatherwick works with a team of around 180 architects, designers and makers from a studio and workshop in King's Cross, London.

City of Manchester Stadium Home ground of Manchester City Football Club in England

The City of Manchester Stadium in Manchester, England, currently known as the Etihad Stadium for sponsorship reasons, is the home of Manchester City and, with a domestic football capacity of 55,097, the fifth-largest in the Premier League and tenth-largest in the United Kingdom.

Manchester City and metropolitan borough in England

Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England, with a population of 545,500 as of 2017. It lies within the United Kingdom's second-most populous built-up area, with a population of 3.2 million. It is fringed by the Cheshire Plain to the south, the Pennines to the north and east, and an arc of towns with which it forms a continuous conurbation. The local authority is Manchester City Council.


The sculpture was commissioned in 2003; construction overran and the official unveiling was delayed until 12 January 2005. Six days before the launch, the sculpture suffered the first of three visible structural problems as the tip of one of the spikes detached and fell to the ground. Legal action started a year later, resulting in an out-of-court settlement totalling £1.7 million.

In February 2009, Manchester City Council announced that the sculpture would be dismantled and placed in storage. [2] Despite the promise of storage and potential reassembly, the core and legs of the sculpture were cut apart during removal. The core was sold for scrap in July 2012, with the 180 spikes reported to have been placed in storage for an undecided future use. [3] [4] [5]

Manchester City Council Local government body in England

Manchester City Council is the local government authority for Manchester, a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England. It is composed of 96 councillors, three for each of the 32 electoral wards of Manchester. The council is controlled by the Labour Party and led by Sir Richard Leese. The opposition is formed by the Liberal Democrats and led by former Manchester Withington MP John Leech. Joanne Roney is the chief executive. Many of the council's staff are based at Manchester Town Hall.

Design and statistics

The completed B of the Bang. BoftheBang.jpg
The completed B of the Bang.

B of the Bang originally stood 56 metres (184 ft) tall [1] with 180 hollow tapered steel columns or spikes radiating from a central core. It was angled at 30 degrees [6] and supported by five 25 m (82 ft) long, tapered steel legs [7] [8] which connected to the spikes 22 m (72 ft) above the ground. The sculpture weighed 165 tonnes, [9] with the concrete in the foundations weighing over 1,000 tonnes, [10] including a 400 m2 (4,300 sq ft) reinforced concrete slab. [11] The foundations are 20 m (66 ft) deep. [10]

The sculpture was made from the same weathering steel (also known as Cor-Ten) as the Angel of the North sculpture, which gradually develops a tightly adhering oxide layer as it is exposed to the elements. This layer inhibits further corrosion by reducing its permeability to water. As part of the design, the spikes swayed slightly in the wind [12] in order to withstand gusts in excess of 100 mph (160 km/h). [10] At the time of construction a time capsule was placed in one of the spikes of the sculpture, containing children's poems and paintings, due to be opened circa 2300. [13] The location of the time capsule after dismantling is currently unknown.

Weathering steel steel alloy forming a rust-look finish when exposed to weather

Weathering steel, often referred to by the genericized trademark COR-TEN steel and sometimes written without the hyphen as corten steel, is a group of steel alloys which were developed to eliminate the need for painting, and form a stable rust-like appearance after several years exposure to weather.

<i>Angel of the North</i> sculpture, designed by Antony Gormley

The Angel of the North is a contemporary sculpture, designed by Antony Gormley, located in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, England.

Oxide chemical compound with at least one oxygen atom

An oxide is a chemical compound that contains at least one oxygen atom and one other element in its chemical formula. "Oxide" itself is the dianion of oxygen, an O2– atom. Metal oxides thus typically contain an anion of oxygen in the oxidation state of −2. Most of the Earth's crust consists of solid oxides, the result of elements being oxidized by the oxygen in air or in water. Hydrocarbon combustion affords the two principal carbon oxides: carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. Even materials considered pure elements often develop an oxide coating. For example, aluminium foil develops a thin skin of Al2O3 (called a passivation layer) that protects the foil from further corrosion. Individual elements can often form multiple oxides, each containing different amounts of the element and oxygen. In some cases these are distinguished by specifying the number of atoms as in carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, and in other cases by specifying the element's oxidation number, as in iron(II) oxide and iron(III) oxide. Certain elements can form many different oxides, such as those of nitrogen.

B of the Bang was located next to the City of Manchester Stadium at Sportcity, in Beswick, at the corner of Alan Turing Way and Ashton New Road;. [14] [15] It took its name from a quotation of British sprinter Linford Christie in which he said that he started his races not merely at the 'bang' of the starting pistol, but at 'The B of the Bang'. [7] The artwork had been nicknamed KerPlunk by the locals after the popular children's game from the 1970s. [1]


Sportcity in Manchester was used to host the 2002 Commonwealth Games. It is in east Manchester, a mile from Manchester city centre, and was developed on former industrial land including the site of Bradford Colliery.

Sprint (running) running over a short distance in a limited period of time

Sprinting is running over a short distance in a limited period of time. It is used in many sports that incorporate running, typically as a way of quickly reaching a target or goal, or avoiding or catching an opponent. Human physiology dictates that a runner's near-top speed cannot be maintained for more than 30–35 seconds due to the depletion of phosphocreatine stores in muscles, and perhaps secondarily to excessive metabolic acidosis as a result of anaerobic glycolysis.

Linford Christie English athlete, Olympic medalist

Linford Cicero Christie is a Jamaican-born British former sprinter. He is the only British man to have won gold medals in the 100 metres at all four major competitions open to British athletes: the Olympic Games, the World Championships, the European Championships and the Commonwealth Games. He was the first European to break the 10-second barrier in the 100 m and still holds the British record in the event. He is a former world indoor record holder over 200 metres, and a former European record holder in the 60 metres, 100 m and 4 × 100 metres relay. His career was overshadowed after a ban for use of nandrolone in 1999.

Prior to the construction of Aspire at the University of Nottingham, B of the Bang was Britain's tallest sculpture at well over twice the height of the Angel of the North, [15] which stands at 66 feet (20 m). It was designed to look like an exploding firework [1] and was taller and leaned at a greater angle than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. [7] It was commissioned by New East Manchester Limited to commemorate the 2002 Commonwealth Games. [6] The design was selected by a panel consisting of both local residents and art experts via a competition in 2002 [12] and was designed by Thomas Heatherwick. [14]

<i>Aspire</i> (sculpture) sculpture by Ken Shuttleworth

Aspire is a work of art, constructed on the Jubilee Campus of the University of Nottingham, in Nottingham, England. It is a 60-metre tall, red and orange steel sculpture, and was, until overtaken by Anish Kapoor's Orbit, the tallest free standing public work of art in the United Kingdom, taller than B of the Bang; Nelson's Column, the Angel of the North. It is also taller, excluding the pedestal, than the Statue of Liberty. Designed by Ken Shuttleworth and Make Architects, it comprises an 8m high concrete foundation and 52m high red and orange steel tower. The sculpture weighs 854 tonnes, and cost £800,000, which was donated by an anonymous benefactor. The name Aspire was chosen after a competition to name the sculpture, which was open to staff and students at the university.

University of Nottingham university based in Nottingham, England

The University of Nottingham is a public research university in Nottingham, United Kingdom. It was founded as University College Nottingham in 1881, and was granted a royal charter in 1948.

Leaning Tower of Pisa famous tower in Italy

The Leaning Tower of Pisa or simply the Tower of Pisa is the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa, known worldwide for its nearly four-degree lean, the result of an unstable foundation. The tower is situated behind the Pisa Cathedral and is the third oldest structure in the city's Cathedral Square, after the cathedral and the Pisa Baptistry.

Construction and funding

B of the Bang under construction. B of the Bang - geograph.org.uk - 822904.jpg
B of the Bang under construction.

The sculpture was constructed in Sheffield [6] by Thomas Heatherwick Studio, Packman Lucas, Flint and Neill and Westbury Structures. [16] It was approved at the start of 2003, [14] with the central core arriving in Manchester on 13 June 2004. [6] This was the largest load that could be transferred via road from the factory, and required a police escort. [10] This central core was lifted into place in August 2004, after which the 180 spikes could begin being attached. Early estimates had given an optimistic completion date of July 2003, which contributed to the sculpture gaining the nickname G of the Bang. [15]

The official unveiling by Linford Christie took place on 12 January 2005. [1]

In total the sculpture cost £1.42 million to design and construct [11] — twice the original estimate, [15] as the initial costing had neglected to include installation costs. [17] Funding was sourced from a European Regional Development Fund contribution of £700,000, the North West Development Agency, contributing £500,000, and Manchester City Council providing £120,000. [18]

Dismantling the B of the Bang. Dismantling a Landmark - geograph.org.uk - 1309321.jpg
Dismantling the B of the Bang.

The tip of one of the 2.1 m (6.9 ft) spikes detached and fell from the sculpture on 6 January 2005, only six days before the official unveiling. [19] After inspection, the event went ahead as planned.

Four months later, in May 2005, a second spike had to be cut off by firefighters after it was discovered hanging loose. [20] At that time the sculpture was closed off to the public, and the junction and pathway near the sculpture were temporarily closed. As a result, some of the joints were re-welded, with equipment put in place to prevent excessive movement. [21] This consisted of retrofitting tip weights to 70% of the spikes' weights. [22]

Despite these modifications, B of the Bang remained fenced off, prompting a local newspaper campaign to 'Get It Sorted'. [22] In May 2006 a total of nine spikes were removed from the sculpture and taken away for metallurgical analysis, to discover the stresses being placed on the steel. [23]

It was announced in October 2007 that Manchester City Council were taking legal action against the makers of the sculpture, with the aim of completing the necessary repairs to the sculpture. [16] In November 2008 this culminated in an out-of-court settlement being reached between Manchester City Council, the project's designers Thomas Heatherwick Studio Ltd, and the engineering and construction subcontractors Packman Lucas Ltd, Flint and Neill Partnership and Westbury Structures Ltd. The agreement was to pay the council £1.7m in damages for breach of contract and negligence. [24]


The core of B of the Bang is visible again during deconstruction in July 2009 B of the Bang during deconstruction.jpg
The core of B of the Bang is visible again during deconstruction in July 2009

Acting on a report in January 2009, [25] the city council recommended that B of the Bang should be dismantled and placed in storage until funds could be raised for its safe reinstatement. [26] [27] The report recognised the sculpture's aesthetic value for Manchester and Manchester City Council committed itself to working with the artist to reach a long-term solution. One possibility involved the replacement of the steel spikes with alternatives made from carbon fibre, although the report underlined the necessity for extensive testing. [28]

In January 2009, Antony Gormley, creator of the Angel of the North —to which B of the Bang is often compared—spoke out in support of the sculpture, stating that, "It is a great tribute to Manchester that this ground-breaking work was commissioned. To allow it to disappear would be a loss not just of an inspirational artwork but also of the council's nerve." [29]

Despite Gormley's plea, removal of B of the Bang began in April 2009. [30] More substantial hoarding was erected around the site and demolition firm Connell Brothers Limited began removing the spikes with oxyacetylene cutting equipment. [31]

Although the council had promised to store the complex central core and legs, [27] these too were cut apart during removal, [4] casting doubt on future prospects for the landmark sculpture's return, and in early July 2012 the core was sold as scrap for £17,000. [5]

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