Designs unveiled as Helix Project takes shape

The view from the new visitor centre
The view from the new visitor centre

Visitors will get a Kelpie’s eye view when two iconic sculptures are built next to the River Carron.

Drawings were revealed today of the planned interiors for the 30m-high steel-plated structures, representing the heads of mythical water horses, which will be erected as part of the Helix Project.

An internal view of one of the Kelpies

An internal view of one of the Kelpies

One will include a viewing platform which will allow people to gaze through the animal’s eyes and across the Forth Valley.

The plans were drawn up by the winners of a national design competition which challenged architects to create an innovative way of allowing access to the giant sculptures, designed by artist Andy Scott.

Nicoll Russell Studios was ultimately chosen by a panel of four judges including Mr Scott, members of Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS). Falkirk Council and British Waterways.

The Broughty Ferry-based firm will also be responsible for designing the visitors centre, which will be built alongside the Kelpies.

The project is scheduled to open to the public in the summer of 2013.

Brian Moore, director of RIAS Consultancy, said: “The calibre and level of response to the competition was overwhelming and myself and the other judges had a tough time trying to shortlist five let alone decide on a winner.

“Ultimately, we were looking for a practice whose designs best met the objectives of the wider project and which would deliver an architecturally outstanding but realistic proposal within the given budget.”

Sculptor Andy Scott said: “It was a tough decision, but for me, I could see how the internal space and visitor centre would work together.

‘‘These are exciting times and I am delighted by both the prospect of seeing the designs come to life and to the contract being awarded to a Scottish company with an international reputation for excellence.”

Welcoming the outcome of the competition, Mike King, programme director for the Helix Project, said the plans demonstrated the quality and strength of architecture and design in Scotland.

He added: “The Helix is among the most exciting transformation programmes under way in the UK right now, and one of our key aims is to create a unique multi-visitor experience that will firmly establish the project as a ‘must see’ destination on the national and international tourism map.”

The Helix Project is a partnership between the Helix Trust, Falkirk Council, British Waterways Scotland and the Central Scotland Forest Trust. It was part-funded by a £25 million grant from the Big Lottery Fund.

The project will transform a 300-hectare area of neglected land between Falkirk and Grangemouth, as well as opening a new link between the Forth and Clyde Canal, River Carron and the Firth of Forth.

It is hoped the Helix will encourage pursuits such as walking, running, cycling and sailing - as well as acting as an international visitor attraction which will significantly boost the local economy.

Contracts for the construction of the Kelpies, the visitor centre and canal link will be awarded in the coming months.

Work has already begun on building a site access road.