Walking the four miles of swirling paths that wind around the green hills and swales, the world’s largest work of “Earth art” is so big and so abstract that it’s hard to reconcile into a unified form. But get a little distance or some height, and all 46 acres magically come together to create “The Lady of the North.”
The enormous reclining female figure was constructed from clay, dirt, and slag-waste from its next-door neighbor, the Shotton Surface Mine, in northern England. For the owners of the mine, the project was a way to help offset the damage done by stripping the land for coal. Looking at an aerial view, the contrast is stark between the mine and its redemptive sculpture.
The park that encompasses the figure is called Northumberlandia, and was conceived and built by architectural theorist, social critic and landscape designer Charles Jencks. The Lady isn’t the first time he’s tackled massive land manipulation–going back to “The Garden of Cosmic Speculation” in the late 1980s, Jencks has spent decades combining his unique brand of social and scientific criticism with large-scale earth-sculpting.
Northumberlandia was officially opened by in 2012 by Princess Anne. It took £3 million pounds and a million and a half tonnes of mine waste to build it, on earth donated by the owners of the Shotton mine and nearby Blangdon Estate. Rising 112 feet at the highest point and nearly a quarter mile long, she goes a long way to heal some earthly wounds.