Two huge metallic horse heads overlooking the Forth & Clyde Canal in central Scotland have recently become a popular tourist attraction. Inspired by mythical water horses and the mighty workhorses that pulled industrial canal barges, The Kelpies are clad with more than 900 steel platelets manufactured, cut and processed by Outokumpu.
Designed by local sculptor
Andy Scott, the two 30-metre-high horse heads were completed in April 2014 to form the centrepiece of a new recreational complex near Falkirk. Each of the giant gleaming heads weighs more than 300 tonnes.
Enormous equine engineering challenges
Creating lasting outdoor artworks on such a massive scale represents an engineering challenge comparable to bridge building. Finding a suitable material for the horses’ metallic coats was a crucial part of this challenge.
Scott’s designs featured hundreds of separately profiled steel plates. It was essential to find a steel grade that could withstand Scotland’s often wet and windy weather – and not distract passing drivers by reflecting too much glare.
Finding the optimal material
The design team’s engineers promptly approached Outokumpu for advice, and 316L mill finish stainless plate was picked as the perfect horse for this course. This grade met all structural and corrosion-resistance demands, while also looking aesthetically pleasing even with a duller surface finish.
The project’s steel construction contractors SH Structures also closely collaborated with Outokumpu. “Not only could Outokumpu supply the optimal material, but they also had the facility to laser cut the panels, and the logistical capacity to meet our schedule and deliver the completed panels direct to the site in Scotland,” says
Tim Burton, SH Structures Sales & Marketing Manager.
The tailored platelets were laser cut to size by from 316L grade steel plate. Then hundreds of carefully labelled and protected platelets were sent to SH Structures, who had the task of putting them together in two giant horse-shaped 3D jigsaw puzzles.