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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 January, 2005, 11:58 GMT
The very big Bang
It's taller than the Angel of the North, leans more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa and was inspired by sprinter Linford Christie. The B of the Bang is a bold work of art, but is it any good?

These days, it seems every British city wants an audacious modern landmark to put it on the map. From the London Eye to Edinburgh's exotic, Catalan-inspired Scottish Parliament, planners have been physically stamping their mark on the country's urban landscape.

Now comes Manchester's B of the Bang, an astonishing 50-metre high sculpture made up of 180 steel spikes. Commissioned to celebrate the city's staging of the Commonwealth Games in 2002, designer Thomas Heatherwick drew his inspiration from a quote by the British sprinter Linford Christie.

Christie had said that when kneeling at the starting blocks before a race, he would always listen for the "B of the bang". The work sits close to the games' stadium, which is now the home ground of Manchester City.

Just how big a bang?

With the huge spikes emanating from a central core, the work resembles a sea urchin, a porcupine or, perhaps, a Sid Vicious haircut.

But the £1.42m sculpture is more than an arty exclamation mark. Weighing 165 tonnes, and leaning at 30 degrees, it is also said to be a tremendous engineering feat.

But is it any good?

Mark Radcliffe, Radio 2 presenter
I think it really does give you that feeling of a euphoric moment, an explosion of emotion. I'm all in favour of big, bold works of art in public places - it's an utterly noble endeavour - bringing landmark talking points to otherwise unremarkable spaces. So I always enjoy seeing B of the Bang when I'm on my way to the match - although the explosive moments have been all too rare this season so far. I kind of wish it was a bit shinier maybe, but other than that, I'm happy it's there.

Paul Usherwood, author of Public Sculpture of North-East England
It certainly makes a dramatic two-dimensional image but whether, given where it is, whether it can draw on local pride and a sense of history, like the Angel of the North has, I very much doubt. The Angel of the North, this great steel thing, for local people connotes the shipyard tradition and the manufacturing, heavy industry of the area. The people in the North East desperately wanted a symbol and they adopted it. I think the B of the Bang is working much more like a commercial logo, trying to create an identity from scratch and that's a very tall order. It's in the same kind of league as the McDonalds golden arches or the Nike swoosh, creating a big splash, grabbing attention, creating something out of nothing.

Designer Thomas Heatherwick
It's not my job to make everyone like everything I do but anyone would recognise the craftsmanship and engineering of this has been extraordinary. When I think about sport I don't think about peace and harmony. There's a moment of utter aggression and dynamism so we tried to make the most un-passive object we could. It's much more part of this area than something sitting back like a smug sculpture which looks like an arm or a head. I hope this can be read or perceived in different ways. It would disappoint me more if someone said it was something that wasn't interesting. And a project that's designed to be here for the next 300 years that costs £1.4m and was as high as the Statue of Liberty is quite good value.

Stuart Hall, Five Live football commentator
I hate it. It cost £1.5m and spikes are falling off it already and will eventually kill someone. The money could be more wisely spent. I really don't see the point of it. It doesn't do anything. If you come to Manchester and look at the central library and that beautiful Romanesque gothic town hall - that's the soul of Manchester. I'm a collector of clocks and I have been trying for years to set up a museum of horology in Manchester for children but we can't get a grant and yet they go and build this ghastly sculpture that nobody likes. There's nothing so permanent as rust. It will just rust away like everything else in modern Britain. It's not meant to last. It's a temporary fob.

Sarah Jones, a 24-year-old history of art graduate who lives in Manchester
It may well bring attention to arts in Manchester and the city itself. It's definitely representative of the spending that's been going on here over the past few years. But given the current financial state of Hope Hospital which is in desperate need of something like £1m, I do think the Bang's £4m tag is an excessive amount to spend. Looking after the needy is far more important than making statements about how progressive Manchester is... when it clearly hasn't progressed to the point where its hospitals work.

Tom Dyckhoff, architecture critic, The Times
It's bold, it's spectacular, it's incredibly inventive. There's a lot of talk about icon buildings at the moment and until now Manchester didn't have a statement, a piece of modern architecture that really sticks out. The difficulty with public art at this level is that it can't carry the subtleties, and layers of interpretation you'd expect in a more intimate piece of art. So this is a "one-liner" ¿ you look at it and you get it. But it's quality. The wonder for me is that it looks so improbable. It doesn't photograph well, but the best sculptures and pieces of architecture don't because to appreciate the best 3-D design you have to be in the 3-D space. It does, however, reproduce well as a logo.
Norman Rylance, 55, who lives 100 yards away
The B of the Bang? I've got another name for it... an eyesore. Most people I've spoken to think it's a monstrosity. I can see it from my front door step. As locals we were consulted about it, but we were told it was going to be yellow when finished, when, in fact, it's a rust colour. Apparently, they didn't have the money to paint it up. In the summer some thieves pinched a 30ft strut off it and dumped it outside my door. They should have sent a scrappie round to take the rest of it away. Will it put the area on the map? We're already there - we've got a huge stadium and a velodrome here. I must admit it's not too bad when they light it at night. It'll probably grow on me in the end.


Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

As a concept and design it's great. Maybe it just hasn't quite hit the mark? Nothing worse than a rusty old attempt.
David, Seville, Spain

Although I haven't been to see it yet, I soon will, the pictures make me tingle, I love it. I have to admit I had doubts when I first heard about it but it really does look like a fire work going off and I love them too!
Joseph Peace, Manchester, England

I think The B of the Bang looks great. It's original, dynamic and very eye-catching. As with any new sculpture, it will have it's critics but I feel it will stand the test of time and become a real icon.
Grace Mills, Didsbury, Manchester

It is a very expensive eyesore. There are so many worthy causes in Manchester, so why waste money on this rubbish???
Asif Rizvi, Prestwich Manchester

It's really good to know that Manchester doesn't have any unemployed or homeless people, is free from crime and drugs and has so many provisions for it's young people that it can afford to spend £1.5 on a large lump of metal to make the city look prettier. Perhaps they could share the secret of their success with other city councils around the country.
Kiltie, Staffs, UK

I love the B of the Bang! I've watched it be erected over the last few months on regular visits to the Velodrome, and i see something new in it everytime i'm there. It is a great icon for a upcoming sporting area.
Sarah Adams, Hull

I think it is wonderful. It is inspiring, fresh and has a fabulous name. Well done.
Shirley Brigham,

A worthy piece of work, for me this is what art is all about, achieving something which is not only interesting to look at but is also a feat of engineering. Progress is what life is all about, it amazes me when people forget that "traditional" aspects of art and archite cture were all new and unconventional once.
Vic Isaac, Worcester

Several times a week I have driven past the sculpture as it has been put in place. When at the crossroads waiting for the lights to change, it feels as though I have sat almost underneath the B of the Bang as I have a panoramic roof on my car. That's one of the best views looking UP not at the sculpture.. I think it's fantastic, a marvellous gravity defying structure. And yes, I live in East Manchester!
Mellanie Holden, Manchester

I am in total agreement with Sarah Jones (above). There seems this attitude in the higher-class circles where they think ' bah it's only a million quid, that¿s peanuts nowadays ' but that is hell of a lot of money and it could have been better spent, and they know it! It's amazing how irresponsible people can be as soon as they get power to spend taxpayers¿ money.
Andy Tremlin, Lincoln

You are quite right to say that towns and cities across the country are jumping on the public art band wagon. Most of them go unnoticed. The fact that the national media is covering the B of the Bang so extensively and that it has provoked strong reactions is a clear sign that it is right at the top of these kinds of projects. But for people living in Manchester these days, we're getting used to being in the top echelon.
Matthew Sutcliffe, Manchester

I walk past it every day on my way to work and I am constantly amazed at how hideous it is. I was very scared in case the high winds blew parts of it off; it could have killed some innocent passerby. Take it away and throw it in the canal
james cullen, Manchester

Its O.K. I didn't like the Angel of the North when that was first built, but now I love it. As with the Angel these projects keep skilled steelworkers & craftsmen in work. I'd rather they built ships and bridges, but these statues still make a great advert for British design & construction talent.
Peter, nottingham

Well it is certainly unusual. What I would like to know is what will happen to it when it gets hit by lightning?
Mike McRoberts, Orpington, Kent, UK.

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