A new sculpture in the garden of mima – the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art – combines a structural steel frame with steel mesh as it pays homage to the heritage of the area’s industry.

The piece, designed by Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva, is named HA[SOFT]RD as a nod to the region’s hard exterior but softer nuances.

Middlesbrough mayor Ray Mallon inadvertently inspired the name while speaking to the artist, when he said: “Someone once remarked that Middlesbrough people have a hard exterior, but a soft centre, and I think that’s a good description.”

The description is reflected in the construction of the piece, which features three steel panels, built using a steel mesh strung between a structural steel frame.

Each panel also contains hidden speakers, and when visitors walk around the sculpture, these are triggered, to play back fragments of voices from local residents.

Their comments remember the history of the area, including some of its darker aspects, but also provide an optimistic view towards the future.

HA[SOFT]RD represents the culmination of around two years of work since Elpida was chosen in 2012 to create mima’s sculpture, after the venue was selected to host the Alexandra Reinhardt Memorial Award Artist in Residence.