Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies

I wonder what it is about human nature that makes us want to build large sculptures upon the landscape. Whether industrial and functional or purely aesthetic and artform, they certainly make a statement of human interaction with our natural world.

Yesterday, I visited two such sites in Scotland – the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies.

The Falkirk Wheel is the only rotating boat lift in the world and connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. Opened in 2002, it lifts (or lowers) boats 24 meters enabling the vessels (mostly recreational) to travel all the way from Edinburgh to Glasgow.

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While an impressive technological structure, I found the Wheel equally beautiful in its design. Remarkably quiet in its turning, the strait lines of the canal partner with the curves of the wheel in an artful display of both beauty and function.

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The second stop, the Kelpies, are pure art. The Kelpies are 30-meter high horse heads which just opened to the pubic in April, 2014. Designed Andy Scott they are a monument to horse-powered heritage in this part of Scotland.

Kelpies are mythical transformational water spirits of incredible strength said to live in the lochs and pools of Scotland and who can appear as either horses or humans. According to sculptor Andy Scott “The original concept of mythical water horses was a valid starting point for the artistic development of the structures. I took that concept and moved with it towards a more equine and contemporary response, shifting from any mythological references towards a socio-historical monument intended to celebrate the horse’s role in industry and agriculture as well as the obvious association with the canals as tow horses.”

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While beautiful and wild looking from the park, the Kelpies are especially striking from the highway. You come around a corner, and suddenly there they are, looking just as though they are sticking their heads over the fence, ready to run wild given the chance.

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And surely that desire to run wild and free through the landscape is just as much part of human nature as our desire to build large sculpures.

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