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Monday, 13 December 2010

salford's mayan totems

William Mitchells Minut Men (originally uploaded to flickr by Stuart Grout)
Three concrete columns in a Salford University courtyard are proper modernist standing stones. Commissioned in 1967 by the architects of the then new Allerton Building when the university was still Salford Technical College, the London-based sculptor William Mitchell drew on Mayan culture to create his trio of black, white and terracotta figures and, with his team, assembled them in a week, "so that the morning and evening sunshine will fall on the faces of the figures", as he said at the time. 

Typically (then, as now), his abstract totems, with their Aztec swirls and squares and mosaic tile highlights, were greeted, as the Manchester Modernist Society recall in their homage, with the initial snort of "What the hell is that?". The sculptures quickly acquired nicknames though (Faith, Hope and Charity seems to be the one that's stuck most), and Mitchell went on to create work for the likes of Liverpool's amazing Metropolitan Cathedral (look for the expressionist reliefs either side of the entrance doors in particular), London's Barbican and the BART transport system in northern California. 

Mitchell's website details lots more of his work over 55 years, including his latterday speaker for hire role, talking about The Concrete Jungle, Building For The Baby Boomer and more.

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