After spending 30 years in the North Sea, a disused oil rig is set to be transformed into one of the UK’s biggest art installations, proving that rusty and outdated industrial infrastructure can be transformed into a beauty.
The 35-metre-high, 450-tonne heavy rig, which spent a year in a Dutch shipyard being dismantled, cleaned and repaired before its final voyage to Weston-super-Mare beach in the south east from England, arrived in the UK on the morning of 13 July.
His arrival was greeted by crowds, with people gathering on Weston-super-Mare beach from dawn to see how the colossal feat of industrial engineering was dramatically lifted to the ground by a giant crane – a process that lasted three hours.
Since then, the oil platform renamed “See Monster” has been in a process of complete transformation from a naked, gray skeleton painted yellow into a triumph of life.
With a 6,000-piece art installation, a 12-meter waterfall, grass, plants and trees planted on top, the oil rig, when completed, should look like an oasis off the coast. North Somerset coasts.
Not bad for an ancient symbol of the exploitation of nature for the benefit of humanity.
The platform is not yet complete, but once inaugurated it will see visitors explore it from the beach, waterfront and on board.
The art installation will also be a celebration of the “Great British Time” (which is almost never celebrated by those who live in or visit the UK), according to Newsubstance – the company behind the idea for the project. artistic.
That same stormy and unforgiving weather that the See Monster had to endure for three decades while deployed in the North Sea will power the art installation with wind turbines and solar panels.
The case for leaving offshore rigs where they are
The transformation of the disused oil rig into a massive arts platform is also meant to spark a debate about what we should do with retired industrial infrastructure, the so-called “eco-monsters” that are quite ubiquitous in the world.
Although the question is legitimate and several countries have recently decided to transform abandoned industrial sites into thriving art centers (see what Luxembourg has done in Esch-Sur-Alzette), there is growing evidence that disused offshore platforms are best left where they are, in the middle of the sea.
The reason, experts say, is that over time this giant infrastructure becomes the perfect habitat for local wildlife, including at-risk coral reefs. Removing it would constitute significant damage to the habitat that has formed around offshore platforms, and it’s also an incredibly costly feat for oil companies.
But the man-made structures are often viewed by the public as monsters destroying the natural look of the coast and under UK maritime law oil companies must remove disused oil rigs. In the country, around 7,000 to 100,000 tons of offshore architecture are phased out every year.
An ephemeral and costly metamorphosis
The See Monster’s transformation is, in that light, the best thing that could have happened to the disused steel giant. But the metamorphosis of the oil platform into an art platform will not last long: the platform must be deconstructed and recycled in October, because the works exhibited there will be relocated to the city.
The site should have completed its transformation by the end of the summer and will be visitable as part of an “Unboxed: Creativity in the UK”, formerly known as the “Festival of Brexit”.
First proposed by Theresa May’s Conservative government in 2018 to celebrate British creativity (read: exceptionalism), the festival was later endorsed by Boris Johnson.
The festival, which runs from March to October, cost £120m (€141.8m) in total – a considerable amount for a nation that is currently struggling with soaring prices and where the Inflation is expected to hit a record 18.6% in January, the highest peak in nearly half a century.