You may or may not care about the outcome of Super Bowl LIII on Sunday. The site of the game in Atlanta, however, has an interesting factoid for those of us who like birds and bird-inspired art.
The world’s largest freestanding sculpture of a bird stands outside Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Titled simply Atlanta Falcon, after the name of the stadium’s home team, it’s made of thousands of stainless-steel pieces, has two polished eyes, and is perched on a huge bronze football. It has a wingspan of 65.6 feet (20 meters) and is 42.6 feet (13 meters) tall. The sculpture weighs 36.5 tons (73,000 pounds).
Whether or not the sculpture accurately depicts a falcon is debatable, as the folks at Atlanta’s Channel 11 News explained in this December 2017 story.
Internationally acclaimed sculptor Gábor Miklós Szőke of Hungary designed the piece after being commissioned by the Atlanta Falcons to make something one of a kind. In a stadium with numerous state-of-the-art features, this needed to make a statement. “I have always liked to spark a reaction,” Szőke says. “It is a special honor for me that I was asked to do this.”
And a spark he made, one he calls “the biggest” of his career. Working in conjunction with the Savannah College of Art and Design, the sculpture took more than a year to construct, and it had to be built in parts. Szőke and his team of over 200 people built sections of four pieces in Budapest, and had the sections shipped for assembly to Atlanta. Falcons owner Arthur Blank met in Atlanta with Szőke to talk concepts in 2016, and after a few different iterations of design, the final one now stands at the entrance. It looks a little like a transformer ready and waiting to take flight.
Szőke is known for creating huge animal sculptures, including a horse named Colossus in Slovakia and the FTC Eagle outside a stadium in Budapest. He told Curbed Atlanta that he has been fascinated with animals since childhood. “A memory from when I was four stuck in my head: I stepped into the family stables at night, and in the dark, the sheer power of the muscular and fearful animals, which seemed gigantic to me at the time, had a profound effect on me.”