Bristol city centre landmark has wind taken out of its sails
One of Bristol city centre's most recognisable landmarks is being pulled down after it was found to be dangerous.
The wooden sail structure, standing opposite the Hippodrome on the Centre, is being dismantled after engineers found serious weaknesses in its structure.
Council contractors started removing the metal benches beneath the sail on Friday, and much of the structure was being dismantled yesterday afternoon.
Faults in the sail's eight wooden masts were first found three years ago, and work was carried out to stop them decaying.
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More repairs were carried out in 2007 and last year to address splits in the timber and decay around the bolt recesses.
The problems were caused by limitations in the design and material used in the sail, specifically because the timber structures were permanently exposed to the ravages of the weather.
In the most recent survey, engineers found the previous repairs had failed to halt the deterioration of the wood and that more cracks had opened up in the masts' timbers.
Councillor Jon Rogers, the cabinet member for transport and sustainability, said after taking expert advice and considering all options, they decided to dismantle it.
He said: "The safety of the public must always be our number one priority, and this structure in its present condition does not meet the council's standards.
"We understand the structure's life expectancy was between 10 and 15 years, so sadly, it is life expired.
"It has been closely monitored over the years with regular inspections and remedial repair works and maintenance undertaken.
"We will now be looking at further options, including the replacement of all the timber elements with hard wood, and reinstating the structure at a later date."
The sculpture was designed by Bristol architect George Ferguson's firm in 1996, and cost £150,000.
The sail, which at 19m stands as high as a six-storey building, was a timber structure, held together with metal rods and bolts.
It was originally installed on Anchor Road, but was later dismantled and relocated to the city centre promenade in 1999, when a preservative and protective top coat was applied to the timber.
Mr Ferguson said: "We designed it to show the scale of the ships that came into the city centre, and as a signpost to the Millennium project on Canon's Marsh, but it was moved to the centre because people liked it.
"It was meant to last for about three to five years, so it has been on borrowed time. The brief was to do something leading up to the Millennium, so 10-15 years is very generous.
"Now it is time to move on and look forward to something else in its place.
"Should we have something like the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square where people can do performances, or something like the Monument of Light in Dublin? What should be there now?"
The existing city centre promenade was designed and built in time for the Millennium celebrations in 1999, and cost £4 million.
Large grassed gardens with evergreen trees and flower beds were torn out to make way for the fountains and cascade steps, and a new traffic system was put in.
Since then the city centre promenade has been criticised for its confusing road system, and for attracting crowds of drunken revellers.
Former Lord Mayor Peter Abraham was delighted that the sail had been taken down.
He said: "This is the best news I have heard for a long time. Is it the first of the terrible infrastructures that were put on the city centre to go? I am saying one down, plenty more to go.
"The silly fountains, cobblestones that are difficult to walk on and a dangerous traffic regime, it is all the city centre at its worst. This is the beginning, I hope, of the end."