RISE, Belfast

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Structural Steel Design Awards 2012 - Commendation

SSDA012 RISE Sculpture Belfast N3 medium1.jpg

RISE is a large scale piece of public art, visible to thousands of pedestrians, motorists and air passengers travelling via George Best Belfast City Airport.

The structural design of RISE itself was carried out by structural engineers specialising in the design of geometrically challenging structures. RISE is a unique manifestation of the form, with its pair of concentric spheres supported on tangential and normal columns. However, through efficiency of design and selection of a favourable geodesic scheme, the structural fabric of the sculpture was optimised to consist of a relatively small number of fundamental components. Over 4,000 components, connected with c10,000 bolts, were distilled down to less than 60 individual types. This standardisation allowed the steelwork contractor to focus on delivering the level of accuracy required to ensure that every member would adopt its correct position on the surface of each 'sphere'.

To ensure continuity from the sculptor's design models right through to the finished structure, StruCad's import features were used to take in centreline geometry from the structural engineer's master model. This geometry formed the basis of numerous subsequent [[Modelling_and_analysis|models] used to fabricate the structural fabric of RISE itself, as well as a complex array of temporary works, lifting frames and installation aids deployed on site to enable safe and accurate erection of the work.

A number of prototype assemblies, up to and including one complete geodesic panel, were prepared which allowed the erection team to start planning for a most complex steelwork erection task. From an engineering standpoint, the trial assemblies provided invaluable insight into the actual, often non- linear, behaviour of the geodesic frameworks during lifting and up-ending operations.

As detailing of the structure progressed, 3D geometric modelling techniques were brought to bear on some particularly challenging aspects, such as the optimal degree of dishing to be applied to the circular node plates which hold the spheres together. The interaction of the two spheres, the supporting columns and surrounding bed of steel 'reeds', all coated in brilliant white, has created varied and dramatic views.

From the outset it was recognised that the erection of RISE would be extremely challenging due to the nature of the site centred on a major roundabout, which compounded the challenges associated with complex and sometimes prolonged lifting operations. Whilst the geodesic form of each sphere is highly stiff and stable once complete, great care was required to ensure stability during erection before final strength was achieved. A series of bespoke temporary works, lifting appliances and associated accessories to minimise erection risks were designed to ensure intermediate and final stability and accuracy of the sculpture.


Maximising the number of connections made at or near ground level, catering for the highly non-linear nature of the partly completed structure, and ensuring safety during removal of temporary steel were essential aspects of the design and execution of the temporary works. The final operation of transferring the weight of the inner sphere off the temporary stability mast through the 72 steel suspension cables and onto the outer sphere brought a welcome conclusion to a series of increasingly complex lifting operations.

The creation of RISE owes a great deal to the quality, versatility and efficiency of structural steel.

Architect Wolfgang Buttress
Structural Engineer Price & Myers
Steelwork Contractor M Hasson & Sons Ltd.
Main Contractor Wolfgang Buttress
Client Belfast City Council

Judges' comments

Inspired by a summer sunrise seen through rushes, this large sculpture is impressive for its geometric form and precision. Intelligent analysis, precision fabrication and safe assembly on a road-locked site have produced steelwork of fine quality.

Linking two distinct Belfast communities, this is a stunning and popular landmark .