Can you climb him? Why isn't he a girl? What's he made out of? How did he get here? What brand are his shoes?

These were among the first questions a small group of art-loving 9 and 10-year-olds from Balmoral Primary School had when they walked, accompanied by several teachers, into Potters Park to "meet" the newly installed Boy Walking sculpture.

Artist Ronnie van Hout's 5.6m hyper-realist sculpture arrived on Friday – trucked and craned into position in the wee, small hours of the night – and is now walking toward ...

Van Hout, who used to live in the area, says the larger-than-life child strolls forward into the future with confidence and explores the notion of a child transitioning into adulthood.


The kids thought he was maybe heading to the nearby shops or KFC or McDonald's; one thought he might want to climb a neighbouring tree. They were more intrigued by how he was made, what from and what brand his shoes might be (they look like Adidas but aren't because they have the wrong number of stripes).

Janet McAllister: Who does Boy Walking sculpture represent?

Making Boy Walking was an 18-month procedure. Van Hout devised a concept for Auckland Council which, when accepted, involved making a full-scale model of the sculpture cut from blocks of expanded polystyrene using a CNC router with the moulds then cast in aluminium and painted.

Improvements in 3D design technology made it possible and, while it sounds simple, involved numerous steps. Because the internal structure of the $550,000 Boy Walking is heavy steel armature, it needed to be precisely engineered to support the sculpture from loads and prevailing winds then installed perfectly on near-invisible footings in the park.

The foot and shoe of Boy Walking, by New Zealand artist Ronnie van Hout, in production April. Photo / Supplied
The foot and shoe of Boy Walking, by New Zealand artist Ronnie van Hout, in production April. Photo / Supplied

Some of those loads may well be children trying to climb the very shiny structure. "Can you climb him?" was the most popular question, quickly followed by determined attempts to do just that. Those endeavours seemed to indicate that the answer is "no, you can't".

Teacher Madeline Henty says she fielded a few questions about why it was a boy and not a girl. Overall, though, the pupils seemed positive about the new addition to their neighbourhood.

Benji Gladding, 9, says he thinks Boy Walking is perfectly positioned and he likes the movement of it; Irza Mehmood, 10, was impressed at how well co-ordinated his clothes were while Chloie Galanida, 10, thought it was "really good" and would definitely draw more visitors into the park.

• The New Kid in Town welcome event for Boy Walking is today at Potters Park from 11am-2pm. The neighbourhood party, with a free morning tea for the first 100 visitors, includes live music from Encore, arts and crafts activities. You can even make your own version of the artwork to take home.