Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Right out of the Blue? It's Been 20 Years since the Inception of Newcastle's Blue Carpet, Covering the Square outside the Laing Gallery. Its Was Not Greeted Enthusiastically - and Now It Looks Possible That Its Short Life May Come to an End. BARBARA HODGSON Reports

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Right out of the Blue? It's Been 20 Years since the Inception of Newcastle's Blue Carpet, Covering the Square outside the Laing Gallery. Its Was Not Greeted Enthusiastically - and Now It Looks Possible That Its Short Life May Come to an End. BARBARA HODGSON Reports

Article excerpt

REMEMBER those who saw red over the Blue Carpet and thought Newcastle's sparkling artwork was not quite sparkling - or even blue - enough? Well it's now 20 years since its inception and to mark the occasion we are asking whether it has stood the test of time - or is way past its prime.

Over the years the now well-trodden "carpet" outside Laing Art Gallery has been worn down by critics and there are now hints that its longer-term future could be in doubt.

Newcastle City Council, which originally commissioned it, said it now lies within a key area for redevelopment.

A spokesman said: "The Blue Carpet is a piece of public art and has been a part of the city for many years.

"Any development would have to be carefully considered in terms of its pros and cons before a final decision could be taken on the carpet's future."

The Blue Carpet was created by up-and-coming designer Thomas Heatherwick who was just 26 in 1996 when his studio won a competition to devise a new public art space.

The plan was to liven up the thenbland square immediately outside the gallery and Heatherwick's idea was a bold one.

He created a surface of recycled blue bottles - apparently Harvey's Bristol Cream ones with reports of French perfume bottles too.

The crushed glass was mixed with white resin to form 22,500 tiles, some with curving edges to give the impression of material being laid up against the gallery wall.

Bench seats also appeared to fold up from the carpet surface and were illuminated from beneath by sunken glass lights. A spiralling metal and timber staircase completed the picture.

The transformation took some time, not least because the first batch of glass tiles delivered turned out to be more green than blue.

As delays continued, costs rose and the total budget for the space rose to over PS1.4m, partly funded by the Arts Lottery Fund and the European Regional Development Fund.

The first part of the Blue Carpet square didn't open until 2001 and there were already mutterings that it didn't look as blue as expected.

But art critics loved it with one saying the only "mistake" made was perhaps in its name, which turned its colour into an issue.

Heatherwick's initial idea had been for changing colour lights beneath the flowing form.

The following year it won three Paviors' Awards - annual awards made in London for excellence in paving works.

Those initial rumblings grew when the tiles began to fade; their hue turning grey. The difference became Turn to Page 32 From Page 33 glaringly obvious when damage started to appear and cracked tiles were replaced with new ones of the original colour.

Vandals also targeted the bench seats but, despite one-time calls for the Blue Carpet to be replaced by paving stones, the council had no plans to do so. …

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