If you have time to wander around the Frederick Road Campus of Salford University or as you drive along the A6 you might come across these sculptures. The three unusual sculptures are Grade II listed by Historic England. Totem-like, these sculptures were built in 1966 by William Mitchell and stand in a courtyard in front of Allerton Building at what was then Salford Technical College and is now University of Salford.
These are bold concrete public art pieces, typical of the 1960s that make reference to engineering and to Central American art. I dare anyone not to want to touch these tactile pieces as you walk around the three giant figures. The sculptures change with the light and every time I visit I see new details I had missed before. Almost six metres high these are imposing works, each made from four concrete blocks.
English Heritage note:
‘William Mitchell was a leading public artist in the post-war period who designed many pieces of art in the public realm, working to a high artistic quality in various materials but most notably concrete, a material in which he was highly skilled, using innovative and unusual casting techniques, as seen in this sculptural group. He has a number of listed pieces to his name, both individual designs and components of larger architectural commissions by leading architects of the day.’
Salford University has other public art, including ‘Engels’ Beard’ [below] positioned by the Adelphi Building. This five metre high fibreglass sculpture doubles as a climbing wall. Greater Manchester now has two statues to Engels who spent more than twenty years here. The poverty he observed influenced his writing of The Condition of the Working Class in England.