It will cost almost half-a-million pounds and has divided public opinion in one of Northern Ireland’s most deprived areas.
But Rise, Belfast’s biggest piece of public artwork, is now under construction.
The massive silver and white steel sculpture, which will be taller than the city’s Albert Clock, is being built at the Broadway Roundabout — just yards from where some householders still have outside toilets.
Designed by Nottingham artist Wolfgang Buttress, it is made up of two globes which are meant to symbolise the rising of the sun and new hope for Belfast’s future. It will appear to rest on a bed of reeds — a reference to the natural heritage of the neighbouring Bog Meadows and will have lights at the end of each reed reflecting on to the globes.
It is hoped the structure will become a major tourist attraction similar to the Dublin Spire or the Angel of the North, and will help revitalise one of the neediest areas of the city.
However, some residents, who have held street protests over poor housing conditions, believe the money would be better spent on regeneration in the area.
Some have already dubbed it ‘The balls on the Falls’.
“When this was first suggested by DSD (the Department for Social Development) I and this community were totally opposed to it,” said Ulster Unionist councillor Bob Stoker.
“As one man said to me, ‘I’ll be able to sit in my outside loo and look at the lights’.
“Housing regeneration is more important than public art.
“However, the DSD said it was very, very clear that this money had been set aside for that purpose and that it wouldn’t be transferred to housing or roads or anywhere else. If it wasn’t used on that, it would be lost.
“According to the DSD, it will be a major visitor attraction and this community will have to take any opportunities that arise from that — whether that is through local tour guides, replicas of the sculpture, postcards or photographs.
“It’s frustrating. I see the living conditions, long waiting lists for social housing, poor levels of health, high unemployment and high levels of educational under-achievement.
“But, we are not going to stop it now by whinging.”
Rise cost £486,000 — £330,000 of which has come from the DSD, £100,000 from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, through Lottery funding, and £56,000 from Belfast City Council.
When built it will dwarf the Beacon of Hope in Thanksgiving Square, which at 19.5 metres tall is currently the largest piece of public art in Belfast.
Construction work is expected to take around 12 weeks, and it is thought the sculpture will be completed at the end of June.
The globes are expected to be put in place in about two weeks’ time.
In a statement, Belfast City Council said that when completed Rise would be visible to the 65,000 motorists who travel along the M1 and Westlink every day, as well as by the 2.5m air passengers flying into George Best Belfast City Airport.
Standing at 37.5 metres tall and 30 metres wide, Rise is the tallest piece of public art ever commissioned in Northern Ireland. It will be three metres taller than the Albert Clock and six times the weight of a double-decker bus. It will also dwarf the Beacon of Hope, currently Belfast’s biggest piece of public art at 19.5 metres. St Anne’s Cathedral Spire of Hope reaches 40 metres, Belfast City Hall’s Dome is 53 metres high, while the Belfast Eye stretched to 60.5 metres tall.