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Kelpies horse heads open for the first time

The two 300t, 30m tall horse heads – known as The Kelpies – have opened to the public on the new 350ha Helix Park in Falkirk.

Engineered by Atkins the horses form the entrance to the Forth and Clyde canal, which crosses central Scotland.

Atkins principal engineer John Bullock said: “The engineering of the Kelpies was extremely technical and involved a number of challenges. For example, the idea that visitors would be allowed inside the horse heads meant that we couldn’t engineer normal central support columns to counteract the force of wind that the Kelpies would be exposed to on an open site. Because of this we had to place vertical supports at the front and back of the horse heads close to the horse’s ‘skin’ so the visual of the internal structure for visitors wasn’t compromised.”

Atkins has been involved in the project since its beginning in 2008 for Scottish Canals.

The Kelpies were based on mythological water horses which inhabit lochs and rivers in Scottish legend, and the sculptures have attracted international attention, with the draft models (scale 1:10) having been displayed in Grant Park, Chicago, Purdue University, Indiana, and most recently, Bryant Park, New York, in the United States.

  • A programme called Creating The Kelpies will be air tonight at 9pm on BBC2 Scotland, featuring Bullock and another Atkins engineer, Felicity Starr.

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