A large work seemingly constructed out of wooden slats, until closer inspection reveals grey-painted steel to be the material. The shape of the main section is based on some form of electrical equipment or receiving dish. A shield makes up one side, and a coil the other, with antennae like struts at top and bottom. This is mounted on a horizontal platform, itself 1.2 metres off the ground, and the whole is topped with a spire rising approximately 4 metres.
'Spiral Nebula' is the title commonly used for this work within the University, though 'Swirling Nebula' has also been given.(1) It stands in front of Newcastle University's Herschel physics building, designed by Sir Basil Spence and opened in March 1962.(2) (Spence and Clarke collaborated on a range of other projects in the 1960s, notably at Coventry Cathedral and Newcastle Civic Centre.)
'Spiral Nebula' was originally finished in a shiny aluminium coating, but Spence thought that it distracted attention from the physics block and after a month the sculpture was flame blasted, waxed and painted grey.(3) Viewed in relation to the Herschel Building's use, the sculpture can be taken as a symbol of the scientific advances made in the 1960s, especially in relation to space travel.
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