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Steel plays an important role in several fields, and the progresses of metallurgy have extended the scopes of this alloy, making steel increasingly used in oil and petrochemical, energy, mining, nuclear and food industries.

However, steel is fit also to other, completely different types of processing, as evidenced by some famous works of art, most notably “The Arrow of Light” by Arnaldo Pomodoro, which stands in Corso del Popolo in Terni.

It is no coincidence that such an imposing steel work rises in the Umbrian town: Terni has indeed a long tradition in steel processing, and the work was commissioned from the great artist in 1984, the year marking the hundredth anniversary of the foundation of the steel mills of the city. The foundation of the steel mills dates back to 1884, but the first factories settled between the eighteenth and the nineteenth century, thanks to the strategic location of the city and to an abundant water supply. During World War I the steel mills worked above all for the war industry, and the bombardments of World war II did not succeed in tearing down the steel mills of the city, which kept working and, in recent times, succeeded in innovating and facing new challenges.

It was President Sandro Pertini, after a visit to the steel mills in 1984, that suggested the realisation of a work to highlight the importance of this industry and the ability of the people who worked hard in it, and in the same year the managers of the steel mills and some politicians of the city, after being quite impressed by a Pomodoro exhibition which was held in Florence, decided to charge the great artist with the realisation of the work. Impressed in turn by the visit to the steel mills, Pomodoro projected an imposing obelisk with a triangular base which was meant to glorify both the steel mills and the human mind, and which was a celebration and, at the same time, a warning against technological breakthroughs. To realise the work Pomodoro was helped by Mario Finocchio, director of the foundry, which suggested using stainless steel. Stainless steel processing is indeed the buttonhole of Terni’s steel mills.

The realisation of the work turned out to be more problematic than one might have imagined, because of the monumentality and the complexity of the sculpture (about 30 metres high, four sections, each one different from the other, hundreds of parts joined together), but from the project to the stainless steel finishing the ability and efforts made by the technicians brought to a very good result. In particular, they decided to divide the sculpture, realising its parts singularly, and to put them together in a second time: 27 cast parts, in addition to over 400 smaller pieces were joined through electric steel welding and plasma cutting, and the result is now plain for all: an obelisk that overlooks the surrounding space and that tells the story of the bond between the city and steel mills. The first section, made of cor-ten steel, gives the idea of rusty iron, and symbolises the past, while the second and third parts, in stainless steel, symbolise the present, and the fourth one, geometrical and plain, made of shining brass, stands for the hope for the future.


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