arts and design

Hope on the banks of the Clyde: Cop26 legacy sculpture installed

A new public sculpture that calls for optimism about humanity’s response to the climate crisis has been installed in a park once home to Glasgow’s last working coalmine.

The Hope Sculpture, featuring an androgynous child placed more than 20 metres high, has been erected on the bank of the Clyde as a permanent reminder of Glasgow’s role as host of the Cop26 climate summit in November.

It stands in Cuningar Loop, a former industrial site converted into a woodland park that is also the home of a British Geological Survey test facility studying the potential for drawing zero-carbon geothermal energy from the flooded former mine shafts.

The 23 metre tall Hope Sculpture by artist Steuart Padwick
The Hope Sculpture by Steuart Padwick. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

Now part of Rutherglen, the Farme colliery worked coal seams around Cuningar Loop for more than a century until it closed in 1931, and was emblematic of Glasgow’s status as the heavy industry workshop of the British empire.

The 23-metre-high Hope Sculpture has been designed by Steuart Padwick, an artist and sculptor known for his Head above Water sculpture on the Thames near the Oxo tower in London. It has been built using low-carbon, recycled and repurposed materials, including a concrete made without cement – a material globally responsible for releasing 2.8bn tonnes of CO2.

It has two companion pieces – a 4.5-metre-high wooden figure on the main concourse at Glasgow Central station, cut from Scottish spruce, and a 3.5-metre-high, three-figure installation in gardens at Strathclyde University cut from reclaimed steel

Padwick said he wanted to suggest humanity had a positive future; he had despaired at the anxiety he had seen in children worrying about the fate of the planet. The figure’s outstretched arms are designed to be embracing.

“It is reaching out across Glasgow. Its message is very simple: why would anyone want to poison their future,” he said.

The 23 metre tall Hope Sculpture by artist Steuart Padwick
The Hope Sculpture by Steuart Padwick. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

The child figure perches on top of a tripod designed to echo the industrial brick chimneys that once dominated Glasgow’s skyline. The child is moulded from cement-free concrete using recycled crushed glass. It will be formally unveiled on Wednesday.

About 50 companies donated free materials and expertise for the project, including the lead consultant, the engineering firm Ramboll.

In collaboration with the Mental Health Foundation, words that resonate with its message have been contributed by Scottish cultural figures such as the poet Jackie Kay, the authors Andrew O’Hagan, Ali Smith and Douglas Stuart, winner of the 2020 Booker prize, and local children, which have been carved into Caithness stone used for landscaping and benches, and the sculptures themselves.


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