10th December – ‘Spiral Nebula’ in the Snow

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Photograph of Herschel Building and Spiral Nebula sculpture

Photograph of Herschel Building and Spiral Nebula sculpture (NUA/026961-4)

Here’s a snowy and wintery image from our University Archives.

Photograph of Geoffrey Clarke’s sculpture, in the snow, in front of Sir Basil Spence’s Herschel Building at Newcastle University, for the Department of Physics, taken 1963.

‘Spiral Nebula’ (also known as ‘Swirling Nebula’) was designed by noted post-war sculptor Geoffrey Clarke in 1962. It is a leading example of post-war public art. It is one of the few from this period that is situated in Newcastle.

It was commissioned by the architect Basil Spence as part of the design of the Herschel Building for the Physics Department of Kings College, University of Durham (which later in 1963 became Newcastle University). It reflects the scientific advances being made at this time,  such as Britain’s first satellite, ‘Ariel 1’, which was launched in 1963 (the same year as the building was opened and sculpture unveiled).

Read more about the sculpture’s history and its revival here.

‘Spiral Nebula’ was one of five pieces of post-war public art in the North East to be given listed status at Grade II by Historic England in August 2016 (announced by Historic England September 2016). Read more here.

This photograph is part of the photographic section of the University Archives. To see more images from the University Archives and more of ‘Spiral Nebula’ in situ and being constructed, visit Collections Captured.

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