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Detail of one of the ceramics

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||| Press Release 10 July 2004 |||
Huddersfield Queensgate Market's landmark sculptures at the centre of an alert from the Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society.

Dr Lynn Pearson, of Newcastle, the editor of the Journal of the Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society has just visited Huddersfield to appraise the enormous ceramic sculptures that are on the Queensgate fašade of the 1970 Market Hall.

Dr Pearson said "The interior of the Queensgate Market is stunning, as the roof structure is based on twenty-one asymmetric concrete hyperbolic paraboloids, which loom over the market stalls like giant mushrooms. The east facade, facing Queensgate, is just as remarkable with its extraordinary series of massive ceramic murals entitled Articulation in Movement.

"The work, which was made from Stourbridge clay, is about 4,500 square feet in size with nine large panels and a free-standing 32 foot high sculpture pierced by the staircase to the market. A special kiln had to be built at Steller's Square One Studio in the village of Snitterfield, near Stratford-upon-Avon, to fire the panels at 1250-1300 ░C, thus producing stoneware which would weather even better than Huddersfield's local stone. The rusty-brown colouring of the panels came from iron and manganese oxide, and their design reflects the structure and use of the market hall.

"They are also unusual in that most postwar British external architectural decoration was carried out in materials such as concrete, ciment fondu, metal or fibreglass rather than the difficult medium of ceramics.

"In terms of ceramic history the mural's precedents are large-scale architectural works such as the Natural History Museum (completed 1881), whose terracotta flora and fauna celebrated the activities within, and the stoneware frieze Pottery Through the Ages (1939) which adorned Doulton House in Lambeth. In postwar Britain, ceramic murals were generally on a much smaller scale than the Queensgate Market panels; only a few installations, for instance the six-storey tile mural on Transport House (1956-9) in Belfast, approach it in size. Although Articulation in Movement is a significant landmark in ceramic history, it was not followed by other similar sculptures, probably because of a combination of cost constraints, growing lack of enthusiasm on the part of architects for external decoration, and the sheer complexity of producing monumental ceramic works.

"It is all the more worrying, then, that several options announced by the local council in 2004 for the redevelopment of Huddersfield's central area included the demolition of Queensgate Market."

Sculptor, Fritz Steller, speaking from his home in Germany said. "I am delighted in the interest of the Tile and Architectural Ceramics Society. The options that suggest demolition are unfortunate. The sculptures have weathered very well and have matured with the growth of the trees on Queensgate.

Adrian Evans of Huddersfield Gem said "Dr Pearson's observations show that the sculptor Fritz Steller has shown complete mastery of the medium and this is a major work of international importance. These enormous installations relate directly to the market hall. It is important that these sculptures remain in situ. They are part of the townscape of Huddersfield and will last centuries."

The Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society is Britain's national society responsible for the study and protection of tiles and architectural ceramics.

Notes for editors:
  1. Kirklees Metropolitan Council is considering seven options to redevelop the area around the Huddersfield's 1930's library. Three of these options involve demolishing the Queensgate Market Hall.
  2. Fritz Steller was also responsible for the steel sculptures in the market hall and the hall's slate commemorative plaque.
  3. Dr Pearson is the editor of the forthcoming 'Gazetteer of British Ceramic Locations' Richard Dennis Publications, Shepton Beauchamp, 2005; and the author of 'To Brighten the Environment: Ceramic Tile Murals in Britain 1950-70, TACS Journal (2004), volume 10, pp12-17.
Looking up at ceramics from Queensgate Road

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Sculpture viewed through flowering cherry trees
 
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