Relief Sculpture (Middlesbrough, Eddie Hawking, 1962)

Edwin (or Eddie) Hawking’s abstract plaque hung on the Dunning Road Police Station in Middlesbrough from 1962 until the building was demolished in 2009. In 2010 the artwork was saved and moved to Stephenson Street (the old Gazette building, now part of Teesside University) where it can still be found today, affixed to the railings outside the Cook Building.

Photo by Grace Redpath

The plaque was commissioned by the police for their then-brand-new HQ and was cast in aluminium at a foundry in Hull. I interviewed Eddie – a former lecturer at the Middlesbrough College of Art – in 2020 and he said that the piece was an abstract with no particular hidden meaning (although he spoke about it in more depth in an article back in the 1960s, which I’ve shared at the bottom of this page).

You can just about see the plaque in situ in the photos below (sent by Tim Brown – thanks Tim!). In the photo on the right, it’s attached to the wall behind the second car from the left.

The North Eastern Arts Review commissioned a piece on the plaque upon its completion in 1962, which I’ve reposted below (many thanks to the artist Emma Bennett for sending it over).

Full Text:

Two Public Sculptures on Tees-side

What is the proper relationship between sculpture and architecture? Should modern sculpture be added to a building after it is built, or should the sculptor be brought in at the design stage? In our first issue Philip Rawson examined these problems with reference to recent examples in Newcastle and Jarrow.

In this edition, two other sculptors explain what they were trying to do when commissioned, one by private enterprise and the other by a public body, on Tees-side.

Relief Sculpture, Police Headquarters, Middlesbrough

by Edwin Hawking

EDWIN HAWKING. Born 1926 at BITTON near Bristol Trained West of England College of Art. Forces 1944-48. Lecturer in Sculpture at Middlesbrough College of Art since 1952. Exhibited in London, Harrogate, Middlesbrough and Newcastle. Works – Middlesbrough Police Headquarters and in private collections. Lives in Middlesbrough, married with three children.

WHEN the architect, James Cairnduff, designed the Middlesbrough Police Headquarters, he foresaw the incorporation of a relief sculpture which would act as something of a focal point and afford a contrast to the stiff geometry of the building. He decided its position, that it should be cast in aluminium, that the size should be approximately 8 ft. high by 4 ft. wide and that it should be nocturnally illuminated from below.

At this point, I was invited to discuss the matter with him and we quickly found ourselves to be in broad agreement about the relationship between contemporary architecture and sculpture and, more importantly, what general form this particular sculpture should take. We were agreed that it should not illustrate the story of “P.C.49″ or symbolize “The Law”, because either would be quite out of harmony with the aesthetic of the building and anyhow such “messages” make no desirable impression on the mid-twentieth century mind. The problem, as I saw it, was to produce a relief sculpture operating on the same wavelength, as it were, as the rest of the building, and fulfilling the two principal requirements as stated above, i.e. to be a focal point and a contrast.

It so happened that, at this time, I had in my studio several clay studies which seemed to offer the beginnings of an answer to the problem and, with the architect’s approval, it was from these that the design grew.

The building is essentially functional in character, consisting almost entirely of horizontals and verticals with few curves, so to effect a sort of counterpoint, my relief was largely built up of organic shapes with a few contrasting geometric ones. It was an attempt to make a synthesis of organic or human and geometric or man-made forms. Whilst the sculpture does not grow from the building in the Gothic sense, the shape of the building was, nevertheless, taken into consideration.

I endeavoured to suggest a movement from the relief upwards and to the right, in order to emphasise the positive quality of the space above the two storey block, and the relief was positioned slightly to the right of its background to counteract the mass of the taller block to the left.

There were also a number of practical considerations which had an effect on the ultimate design. For instance, the depth of relief was limited to about 37 inches because of the proximity of the sculpture to the pavement, and for the same reason no dangerous projections were permissible in the lower half.

Another problem was to make a design that would read in the fitful Northern light by day as well as when lit from below at night.

Altogether, I found the making of the sculpture a most exciting experience and regret that such opportunities are so rare. Difficulties there were in plenty, but it was a pleasure to work for such a sympathetic architect.

Thanks again to NES’s own Grace Redpath for being our roving photographer and getting pictures of the plaque.

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