Spiral Nebula
Art Newcastle City Centre Tyne And Wear

Spiral Nebula

Art In Newcastle City Centre, Tyne And Wear

A striking piece of post-war public art by renowned sculptor Geoffrey Clarke.

The Spiral Nebula sculpture by Geoffrey Clarke is a striking and iconic piece of public art that has stood proudly on the campus of Newcastle University since 1962. Commissioned as part of the design of the Herschel Building for the University's Physics Department, the sculpture reflects the scientific advances being made at the time, particularly in the field of space exploration. It was commissioned as part of the process of what was King's College becoming the fully independent Newcastle University.

The sculpture stands 10 meters tall and is made of cast aluminium. The arms are made up of a series of interlocking shapes, which create a sense of movement and dynamism. The sculpture has the appearance of being constructed from a series of wooden slats but is actually a painted aluminium. It was cast using the “lost wax” method, with polystyrene set in sand used to create the shapes, before the molten metal was poured into the moulds, vaporising the polystyrene.

Clarke was a pioneer of post-war public art in the United Kingdom. His work is characterized by its bold and abstract forms, and its use of modern materials. The Spiral Nebula is one of his most famous works, and it is considered to be a leading example of post-war public art. One of his other notable pieces is the High Altar Cross at Coventry Cathedral.

Spiral Nebula was not without its controversies as the architect responsible for the Herschel Building, which it stands outside, did not like its original finish. Sir Basil Spence, famed for designing Coventry Cathedral, felt that the waxed finish took attention away from his building so the sculpture was flame blasted and painted grey.

By 2012, the condition of the Spiral Nebula sculpture was deteriorating. The aluminium surface had become corroded and the paintwork was peeling. The University drew up a conservation plan and the sculpture was restored to its original vision by Geoffrey Clarke's son, Jonathan Clarke, and Andrew Pawsey, son of Clarke's assistant back in 1962.

In 2016, the Spiral Nebula was awarded Grade II listed status by Historic England, which is a testament to the sculpture's artistic and historical significance.

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54.978021, -1.615722

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54.975892, 54.975892

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Parking is available nearby in the Eldon Square Multi Storey.

Contributed by Andrew Gardner

I love being outdoors, in nature, and experiencing the relaxation it brings. Wandering through the northern countryside seeing unexpected buildings, historic places and occasionally surprised wildlife is one of life's great pleasures.

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Spiral Nebula was listed in Art // Tyne And Wear // Newcastle City Centre