A spiky problem…

Photo by Nick Smale
Photo by Nik Smale
Standing beside the City of Manchester Satdium at 58 metres in height and leaning at a more acute angle than the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the B of the Bang sculpture was commissioned at a cost of almost £1.5 million to mark the 2002 Commonwealth Games and beginning takes its name from a quotation from former sprinter Linford Christie in which he said that he started his races not merely at the ‘bang’ of the starting pistol, but at ‘The B of the Bang’.

But just seven years on and what should have been a major public landmark is now derided by many locals who have nicknamed the sculpture “Kerplunk” after the 1970s children’s toy. And with the tips of several of its hollow steel spikes now having fallen off, local demolition companies are starting to circle, taking an active interest in the removal of the piece, and in the recycling of the 165 tonnes of steel it comprises.

Talk of demolition came after Manchester City Council won £1.7m in damages from the designers and engineers involved in the project. One company, Denton-based Windmill Demolition, has offered to demolish the structure free-of-charge and to recycle the steel at its own facility. This offer was declined by regeneration company New East Manchester, which conceived the sculpture.

A more considered approach came from John Freeley, managing director of local demolition specialist J. Freeley Ltd who estimates that the dismantling could take up to four weeks and cost £150,000. Excavating the foundations would cost an additional £50,000.

“The nature of the concrete foundations would need to be investigated in detail before giving a time estimate,” he said. “Demolition and dismantling specialists would have to work closely with structural engineers who would jointly inspect the structure and look in detail at the original construction drawings to gain an understanding of the design and balance of the structure, as this will dictate the dismantling methods that will need to be used.

“Also, it’s not clear whether it is just the structure itself which needs to be removed or whether the concrete foundations also will need to be excavated.”

To take the weight and offset the 30 degree angle of the sculture’s upperstructure, those foundations contain around 1,000 tonnes of concrete and include a 400 m2 reinforced concrete slab. The foundations extend to a depth of 20 metres.

“The structure itself will have to be painstakingly dismantled and the balance of the structure will have to be maintained to prevent it from becoming unstable,” Freeley concludes. “Demolition operatives will liaise with the highways authorities to make sure surrounding roads are closed during the dismantling.”