Temenos (Middlesbrough, Anish Kapoor, 2010)

Straddling a corner of Middlehaven Dock, Anish Kapoor’s controversial Temenos now enjoys a patch of skyline to itself after the demolition of the Able ‘Goliath’ crane.

Originally planned as one of of Kapoor and engineer Cecil Balmond’s Tees Valley Giants (a plan by Tees Valley Regeneration to create five mammoth artworks across Middlesbrough, Darlington, Hartlepool, Redcar and Stockton-on-Tees), Temenos is the only one that made it off the drawing board.

A series of mooted ideas for Temenos (Anish Kapoor website)

The 50ft high structure stands beside the Riverside Stadium and has become one of the most recognisable emblems of the town. From the beginning (in common with pretty much all the major works covered on this website) the sculpture divided local opinion, gaining an unflattering nickname or two. Some Boro fans noted wryly that it would be useful to catch wayward shots from the club’s strikers. Costing £2.7 million and standing 50m tall, the piece is constructed of steel cables twisted and pulled between two towering steel rings.

The name Temenos refers to land cut off from common use and dedicated to a king, god or holy place (cue the old “football is the religion of the North East comments…). When speaking about the piece, Kapoor noted that, “…even though the work is made of steel I wanted it to have a fragile materiality and yet describe the twisting form between the rings. The pull against the pole and the two rings tensions the form as it might on a bridge”.

Photo courtesy of Ian Allcock at EnA Photography

I’m not sure whether Temenos has grown on the people of Middlesbrough. It’s gigantic form is somewhat undermined by the nearby Transporter Bridge, Riverside Stadium and – formerly – the Goliath Crane that squared off the skyline behind it. It’s a sculpture that rewards an amble around its periphery, seeking out all its angles and eyelines (it’s notable how varied it can look in different images).

I’ll always wonder about what the other Tees Valley Giants might have looked like. Perhaps we can infer a little from Kapoor’s subsequent large-scale works, such as Leviathan and Dismemberment, Site I, but it seems the rest of the planned sculptures will remain a pipe dream.

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