The Dream, St Helens

The supply of 94 separate panels of precast concrete to create a 22m high sculpture of a girl’s head designed by internationally renown artist Jaume Plensa to form a highly prestigious piece of public art for St. Helens. The panels are made using Spanish Dolomite Aggregate and titanium dioxide pigment mix which give a glowing white finish.

  • Featured in Channel 4’s Big Art Programme.
  • Jaume Plensa was the winner of the Precast Concrete Society’s Creativity in Concrete Award 2009.

Technical Development

The scale and design of the artwork, together with the nature of the site and former spoil heap, presented considerable technical challenges in terms of being able to translate the ambitious concept into a real 20 metre high sculpture.

Engineering firm Arup was appointed as the lead consultant responsible for technical design, tendering and overseeing the construction process, and, following detailed site investigations, a number of workshops were held to find practicable solutions to these challenges.

The chosen material was a bespoke mixture of white cement, Spanish dolomite, and titanium dioxide pigment, in order to lend Dream a brilliant, reflective, luminescent, white finish.

Full 3-D modelling was required in order to calculate the complex geometries involved and facilitate both the pre-cast concrete moulding process and the actual assembly of the artwork.

Panel sizes, joint and fixing types and locations, plus handling, loading and transportation requirements were also paramount and discussed in minute detail.

Due to its size and weight, the eventual configuration was made up of 54 individual panels for the head element of the sculpture and a further 36 for the plinth, each one determined both by artistic requirements and the two-fold connection system used to hold the panels together and in effect create an integrated monolithic structure.

A series of highly specialised sub-contractors were involved and the spectacular result is in part a testament to their skill and commitment: Cheetham Hill Construction Ltd. as lead contractor; Cordek to manufacture the 90 individual moulds; Evans Concrete to cast and assemble the 90 concrete panels; ICP to help install them.

Construction Process

Dream is made of bespoke brilliant white pre-cast concrete with Spanish dolomite aggregate, the whitest marble there is.

This gives the artwork an almost luminescent finish and is in stark contrast to the darkness of the pit underground and the blackness of the coal that still lies below.

The mix also contains Strux 90/40 synthetic fibre and titanium dioxide, which has self-cleaning properties and pigments dirt particles white, helping to ensure that Dream‘s surface will stay bright white.

Dream was made offsite by Evans Concrete in Derbyshire in 14 levels out of 90 unique pieces, each crafted from an individual mould using cutting edge technology combined with skilled, time-honoured working methods.

The casting process took 60 working days.

The head is made up of 54 individual elements each weighing approximately 9 tonnes, while the plinth is constructed of another 36 bespoke units.

Its exposed location means that Dream has to withstand gusting winds of up to 100mph, so all the individual panels are structurally interconnected to form a single robust monolithic sculpture.

The story of the Dream