Head Above Water

The sun rises over Head Above Water after reaching structural completion © Daniel Shearing/Stora Enso/Ramboll

The sun rises over Head Above Water after reaching structural completion © Daniel Shearing/Stora Enso/Ramboll


Ramboll. Alan Dowdall.

Alan Dowdall

Technical Associate
T: +44 7870 809 244
Damian Westlake. Ramboll

Damian Westlake

M: +44 7870 808 176

Raising awareness of Mental Health

Jutting out into the River Thames from Gabriele’s pier, stood Head Above Water, a 9-meter-high, interactive, Cross Laminated Timber sculpture. Creating a dramatic change to London’s skyline its intention was to provoke discussion to end mental health-related stigma and discrimination. Designer Steuart Padwick teamed up with Mind’s Time to Change campaign and created the sculpture to be seen by millions during London’s Design Festival.

As a signatory of the Time to Change Employer Pledge, Ramboll was delighted to provide pro bono expertise to help realise Steuart Padwick’s vision. Using digital design that was undertaken concurrently to the site investigation, the team were able to fast track the process and create the sculpture in just 12 weeks from concept to installation. Putting this into perspective, the manufacture alone would ordinarily take 12 weeks.

Head Above Water began as a model clay head, sculpted by Steuart. It developed into a wooden piece made from cross laminated timber (sourced from PEFC certified forests) and is a model of sustainable smart design and build. The clay model was imported into a parametric model allowing several iterations of the design to be completed and reviewed with the design team in quick succession.

Steuart Padwick says: "Head Above Water is a symbol of hope. It needed to be big, powerful and prominent, a beacon of humanity caring for others. This is not my head or about my battles. This is for those who have or have had mental health issues. I want anybody and everybody to relate to it, to open a door perhaps."

At night Head Above Water was lit and people could interact with the sculpture by changing its colours to reflect their mood, by tweeting #HAWLdn then # (any of the Head’s 14 emotions) E.g. Tweeting #HAWLdn #Hope made the head shine purple and blue. This stunning structure has now been relocated to Northfleet Transhipment Centre. Here it will rest with vegetation encouraged to grow around it - a symbol of recycling, rejuvenation and mental health awareness.

More about Head Above Water’s digital design can be viewed on the Ramboll Blog.


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