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Council looks at scrapping sculpture and trying again

The landmark B of the Bang in Manchester needs dismantling due to major defects

Council chiefs in Manchester have admitted they might have to tear down the B of the Bang sculpture commissioned to commemorate the 2002 Commonwealth Games held in the city.

It is the first time the council has publicly admitted the original structure might be beyond saving.

Just two weeks after being unveiled in January 2005, one of the 175 spikes on the sculpture, designed to represent the explosion of a starting pistol, fell off.

And in May that year a second spike failed just 24 hours before vibration-reducing dampers were due to be fitted.

A third spike at the structure - which acts as a gateway to the City of Manchester Stadium - had to be removed this September.

The council has now begun a £2 million legal battle against the architect Heatherwick Studio, structural engineer Packman Lucas, consultant Flint and Neill and the steel fabricator, William Hare-owned Westbury Structures.

Council chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein said: “The project has taken too long to bring forward although we have given the artist and their subcontractors every opportunity to remedy the situation.”
In its claim, filed at the Technology and Construction Court in London, the council admitted: “As a result of the seriousdefects in the sculpture, Manchester City Council has not received the benefit of what it contracted for.

“The only way that MCC will receive what it contracted for is for the entire structure to be taken down and rebuilt, alternatively for all of the existing 7 m-long spike tips to be removed and replaced.

“A number of cracks have also been found in about a quarter of the spikes, making in situ repairs effectively impossible - leading to the sculpture being dubbed the ‘B of the Botch’ by locals. The council is claiming £1.6 million, which is what it says it will cost to rebuild the sculpture to the necessary safety standards, as well as a further Ł400,000 for repairs, testing and health and safety costs.

The writ also claims the steel plate thicknesses were too thin, while insufficient account had been taken of wind fatigue.

It also says that in 54 of the spikes, the original 7 m spike had been replaced without permission with two 3.5 m lengths welded together, introducing a sensitive point close to the tip of the spike.

The big bang that became a damp squib

The B of the Bang was commissioned following a competition for sculptures to commemorate the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002.

It was originally expected to cost £750,000 but this rose to £1.42 million because of installation expenses.

It is named after 1992 Olympic 100 m champion Linford Christie’s comment that he tried to start a race “on the ‘b’ of the bang” and is intended to represent the explosion of a starting pistol.

It is made of 175 weathered steel spikes, weighs 56 tonnes, and, at 56 m high, is Britain’s tallest freestanding sculpture.

The council estimates it has spent £10,000 putting up safety fencing around the sculpture.