THE ERECTION of Gatesheads 208t Angel of the North sculpture was completed 24 hours ahead of schedule earlier this week, despite frantic last minute welding work forced by a late design change.
The planned fixing brackets between the vast 26m long wings and the statues main body were scrapped just days before the weekend lift following a misunderstanding between artist and engineers.
Welders for contractor Hartlepool Steel Fabrications completed the new connecting plate only hours before the sculpture was loaded in three sections on to lorries for the journey to its hillside site beside the A1 (NCE last week). The revised bolting system speeded erection of the wings by about four hours. This, together with unexpectedly good weather, meant the sculpture was in place a day early.
Sculptor Antony Gormley had always intended that his statues 50t wings would tilt 1.3 inward, as if embracing. But he forgot to tell designer Ove Arup and the wings were originally built at 90 to the body. HSF contacts manager Mike Wood said: We could have angled the link plates between body and wing but that would have made it more difficult to fit the connecting bolts.
The original vertical 1.8m deep splice plates on each section would have been aligned
end-on and joined together by an overlapping cover plate secured with a total of 32 bolts. Bending this plate in the centre would have reduced already tight 2mm tolerances while installing the 48mm diameter bolts. Instead, more conventional T-end plates link head-on, allowing direct bolting between the two units. Only 18 bolts are needed as they run parallel to the wing and can take both shear and tension.