The 2016 Southern Africa Stainless Steel Development Association art category award finalist for the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality’s Helenvale Resource Centre project is unusual as it is not often that community project budgets allow for artwork, let alone those conceived of stainless steel, which is not a norm for urban art pieces, says The Matrix Urban Designer & Architects director Albrecht Herholdt.
“The project – which incorporated the use of stainless steel as primary material for its urban art pieces – was conceived as a vehicle to uplift the Helenvale community, and has since done so,” he adds.
Herholdt says that two art pieces, situated opposite each other at the main entrance of the resource centre, have been constructed incorporating the use of stainless steel to create focal points.
The annulus, or a ring-shaped form, of the primary art piece, Kite Boy, was made using polished stainless steel, and contains a cast resin figure of a young boy that is looking up at a kite. The kite he is piloting is also made from stainless steel. The figure was sculpted by artist Michael Barry, a member of the local community.
“Flying a kite is a distinctive activity in Helenvale,” Herholdt mentions.
Kite Boy’s 2 400 mm outer diameter, 400-mm-deep annulus was fabricated using a 4.5-mm-thick grade 304 skeletal frame clad, with 3-mm-thick grade 316 annular segments for the front and back area.
The segments were first spot-fused to the frame, followed by continuous welding of the inner and outer surfaces. The edges were then ground to a smooth radius, followed by sanding, buffing and polishing.
Thereafter, Kite Boy was bolted through the annulus onto a support structure that was concealed within the frame. The last step involved the structure being hoisted onto a concrete base and bolted to preset threaded bars.
According to Herholdt, Kite Boy has become a centrepiece in the community, attracting people to the centre. “The backdrop of Kite Boy is frequently used for wedding photo shoots,” he boasts, adding that the stainless steel used in the art piece cost about R380 000.
The other art piece is a mural that contains words and phrases derived from a community activation process involving children from schools in Helenvale to list words that have special meaning to them. The mural also includes three resin-cast figures of young girls playing rope skip.
Completed in 2013, the project won the Eastern Cape Institute of Architects Regional Award for Architecture in the same year. In 2014, the project won the South African Institute of Architects Award of Merit.