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The Steamship 'Titanic'

The Steamship 'Titanic' 1913

Adrianus Johannes Jansen (1863–1943)

National Maritime Museum

RMS Titanic was an ocean liner that struck an iceberg and sank during its first voyage across the Atlantic ocean in 1912. Titanic was one of many ships constructed in the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast; there are photos on Art UK.

The Harland & Wolff shipyard has since been redeveloped and part has been renamed Titanic Plaza.

Port bow view on No. 3 slip in preparation for launch

Port bow view on No. 3 slip in preparation for launch (Ship No. 401, 'Titanic') 1911

Robert John Welch (1859–1936) and Harland & Wolff (founded 1861)

National Museums NI

In 2012, the Titanic Belfast visitor attraction opened at Titanic Plaza. Created as a monument to Belfast's shipbuilding history, the building's design represents ships' hulls and ice crystals. Outside the entrance stands a sculptural sign spelling out 'TITANIC', designed by the building's architects.

Titanic Sign

Titanic Sign

Eric R. Kuhne and Associates (founded 1983) and Todd Architects (founded 1976)

The sculpture uses steel of the same thickness as the hull of the ship Titanic and weighs 16 tons, the weight of Titanic's anchor. At 4.5 metres tall and 14.5 metres long, the sculpture is the same height and width as the private promenade decks used by Titanic's first-class passengers.

Negative space

Titanic Sign

Titanic Sign 2012

Eric R. Kuhne and Associates (founded 1983) and Todd Architects (founded 1976)

Titanic Museum, Olympic Way, Belfast

Titanic Sign uses negative space. Positive space is space that is filled by objects. Negative space is empty space; the space between objects, or the holes within them. Negative space was created when the letters T I T A N I C were cut away from the steel rectangle of Titanic Sign.

Sculptures that help us remember

As Titanic Sign helps us remember the ship that sank and the shipyard where it was built, other sculptures around the UK help us to remember other people and things that are lost to us. Perhaps there is a sculpture like this, or a memorial, near you. Below are some examples to discuss.

Activity: create a single word artwork

Ask your students to choose a single word to turn into an artwork that spells out something of importance to them – a place, an object, a person or even an idea.

If it is appropriate for your students, their chosen words can refer to change or loss they have experienced. For example, a home they have moved away from, a school they have moved on from, a possession they have lost, or something they have outgrown.

Once they have chosen their words, students might like to practice writing them out in large, chunky letters, experiment with lettering, and double-check their spelling too.


Students will need:

  • thick card, for example, photocopier card or a cereal box, A4 size or larger
  • a pencil
  • a ruler
  • scissors
  • a device with a camera (optional)

Some students may want to draw out their word before they transfer it to the card. They will also need:

  • paper the same size as their card (graph or squared paper is useful)
  • tracing paper

Create a negative space artwork  

Negative space artwork example

Negative space artwork example

Working landscape, students should mark out a gap at the bottom of the piece of card of around 10 cm, or more if bigger than A4. They can then fold along this edge. This is the base from which their sculpture will stand.

With a pencil and ruler, students should measure and mark out the letters that make up their word above this folded edge. There should be space between letters and the edges (as with Titanic Sign). Once it is marked out, students can cut out the letters, leaving a negative space.

They could prop up their artwork in front of the place, object or person it is about, or overlay their artwork on top of an image (printed or on-screen), and take a picture.

Extension activities

Ask your students to draw a design for a public sculpture featuring more words. Give them the freedom to choose the text they wish to feature in their work, but ask them to choose something that links to their first artwork. They could source the text from a famous quote, an excerpt from a song, poem or story.

Students can experiment further with negative space, choosing objects to cut from card, considering size, spacing and placement of the objects.

Task your students with researching artworks or monuments in your locality that commemorate a local change or loss.

Not all sculptures that remember loss or change use words, or negative space. Investigate and discuss other artworks that remember other losses, in different ways.

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