The River (artwork)
An international design competition was held for a central water feature in the square, which was won by Dhruva Mistry. Construction commenced in 1992 and was completed in 1994, when the square was officially reopened by Diana, Princess of Wales.
Mistry's fountain is the largest sculptural piece in the square. Mistry's winning design for Victoria Square consists of four sets of works (named The River, Guardians, Youth and Object [Variations]), representing youth and eternity. The River features a 1.75-tonne bronze statue of a woman, 2.8 metres (9 ft) tall, 2.5 m (8 ft) wide and 4 m (13 ft) long. The surrounding pool is paved with Wattscliff sandstone. Engraved in the rim of the upper pool by Bettina Furneé are the following words from the poem Burnt Norton by T. S. Eliot:
And the pool was filled with water of sunlight,
And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,
The surface glittered out of heart of light,
And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.
Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.
(Lotos is an alternative spelling of Lotus.)
The water in the pool flows at a rate of 12,000 litres (3,000 gallons) per minute into a lower pool, in which is another bronze sculpture, Youth. This sculpture is 1.5 m (5 ft) tall and 1.5 m (5 ft) in diameter, depicting a boy and a girl facing each other at either end of a fountain. Beside them are an egg and a cone. The surrounding lower pool is also paved with Wattscliff sandstone, on the floor of which is a bas-relief of six large salmon. The combination of The River and Youth won a Fountain of the Year award in 1995.
However because of a water leak in the fountain, it was only switched on few special occasions from 2008 until a £300,000 restoration was completed in 2010. The work also involved the installation of a new multi-coloured lighting system.
On either side of the fountain are two large sculptures collectively known as Guardians. The sculptures – made from the same Darley Dale stone as the Council House – are 3 m (10 ft) high, 2.5 m (8 ft) wide and 5 m (16 ft) long. The sculptures are not identical and take features from a variety of animals. They have been derided in the past for having faces like characters in the children's television series Thomas and Friends. On either side of these sculptures are two obelisk-shaped sculptures collectively known as Object (Variations). The sandstone sculptures are 2 m (7 ft) tall and 0.5 m2 (5 sq ft). The two obelisks were initially refused by the city council, as they were deemed unnecessary; but Mistry – who declined to comment on their meaning – urged the council to reconsider, and they were later approved. They now act as lampstands in the square.
Despite the official name of the sculpture, Birmingham is not situated on a major river.
- "The River". Birmingham City Council. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
- Parfect, Michael; Power, Gordon (1997). Planning for Urban Quality: Urban Design in Towns and Cities. London: Routledge. p. 174. ISBN 0-415-15968-7.
- Noszlopy, George T.; Waterhouse, Fiona (2007). Birmingham Public Sculpture Trails. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. ISBN 978-1-84631-134-5.
- Noszlopy, George T.; Beach, Jeremy (1998). Public Sculpture of Birmingham: Including Sutton Coldfield. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. pp. 147–150. ISBN 0-85323-682-8.
- "Birmingham's 'Floozy in the Jacuzzi' unveiled after £300k facelift". BBC Online. 2010-11-08. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
- "Birmingham welcomes back the Floozie". birminghamnewsroom.com. Birmingham City Council. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
- Noszlopy & Beach (1998), p. 21.
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