Suzanne Heath - The Great Beam
Design visual for The Great Beam by Adam Blencowe. Image: Newland Homes

The Great Beam
Engine Common, South Glos

The Great Beam is a permanent public artwork designed and made by Adam Blencowe for Great Oaks, a development of 84 zero carbon homes in Engine Common, South Gloucestershire by Newland Homes. The artwork will create a focal point for the new community within a central green space – an informal, playful, outdoor seating area. Its design derives from the industrial heritage of the local area. Engine Common was once a hub for coal mining, and home to Yate Colliery. The Great Beam will be made primarily from a tropical hardwood called Opepe, reclaimed from a railway bridge, with fixings in steel and forest pennant stone.

The form of the artwork references the beam of the 18th century beam engine at Yate Colliery on a site adjacent to the development. The engine used steam power to pump water out of the coal mines of Engine Common. This industrial technology enabled the mines to be sunk deeper in this part of Gloucestershire, and gave the area its name: Engine Common. Find out more about Engine Common’s mining history here:

During his design research, the artist met with South Gloucestershire Mining Research Group to find out more about the coal mining history of the local area, and visited a working beam engine at the Black Country Living Museum.

During the design process, Blencowe held a workshop with children in Jupiter class at North Road Primary School in Engine Common. The artist introduced the children to the principle of the beam and fulcrum that were used to power the beam engines. These principles were applied to make a series of mobiles using cardboard and air dried clay.

The Great Beam is due to be installed at Great Oaks, Engine Common by the autumn of 2024.

About the artist
Adam Blencowe (b.1981) is an artist, designer and maker based in North Somerset. Blencowe has a background in furniture design and graduated from the Design Products MA at the Royal College of Art in 2015. His practice is broad, making art commissions for public space, furniture for private residence and small timber frame buildings. He teaches on the Product and Furniture Design BA course at Bath School of Design at Bath Spa University.

In his work Blencowe rethinks traditional techniques and processes. He has a particular interest in the provenance of the materials used, often favouring reclaimed and natural materials. He has created work in reclaimed timber, textiles and stone. Recent clients include the Museum of Making in Derby, the Barbican in London and Hauser & Wirth Somerset as well as private commissions for homes.

His ongoing project Fuzzy Logic creates precision felted textiles using waste wool fibres that are a by product of the UK sheep farming industry. He processes these using an adapted Makita jigsaw. For the Barbican Blencowe made a series of textile panels and a series of chess sets.

« Back to Projects


Adam Blencowe


Newland Homes




Great Oaks development