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Competition: Brexit Monuments, UK and France

The Paris School of Architecture has launched a contest for a €20,000 monument or pair of monuments to Brexit (Deadline: 26 January)

The anonymous ‘Brexit Monuments’ competition seeks innovative proposals for a landmark public artwork exploring the UK’s intention to leave the EU and the potential breakdown of European cooperation.

The winning structure or structures will be constructed on privately owned land at either or both ends of the Eurotunnel rail link at Calais and Folkestone. If permission for the installation is refused it will instead be erected at the school’s headquarters in the French capital.

Entrance to the tunnel near Coquelles, France

Entrance to the tunnel near Coquelles, France

Source: Image by Billy69150

Entrance to the tunnel near Coquelles, France

The competition brief says: ‘The Eurotunnel (providing rail services connecting London to Paris and Brussels), constructed between 1988 and 1994 is an important example of European infrastructural co-operation that emerged from a political ideologue that appears to become increasingly distant, or even impossible to imagine today.

’Brexit Monuments proposes an architectural engagement with this particularly loaded political issue, a monument to Brexit, located next to the Channel Tunnel entrances in either (or both) France or the UK and visible to travellers using the Eurostar service between London and Paris.’

The Paris School of Architecture is a new university, focusing on emerging professional requirements and preparing undergraduates and postgraduates for work in practice. It will open for its first intake of students in September next year.

The Brexit process has already been the subject of a Banksy mural depicting a workman chiselling off one of the stars on the European Union Flag located in a prominent position close to the Dover cross-channel ferry port.

The Brexit mural by Banksy in Dover

The Brexit mural by Banksy in Dover

Source: Image by LJClark

The Brexit mural by Banksy in Dover

Earlier this year a giant statue of British prime minister Theresa May wearing a Union Flag skirt was also temporarily erected on Dover’s famous white cliffs.

Proposals for the latest project may be of any height, footprint, form, material and longevity, with submissions due to be evaluated on their legibility at speed, communication of message, monumentality and buildability.

The overall winner will receive around €500 and see their proposal constructed. Submissions may be in English or French. 

How to apply

Deadline

The deadline for applications is midday local time on 26 January

Contact details

Paris School of Architecture
Cité Germain Pilon
75018 Paris

Tel: + 33 9 70 40 64 67
Email: contact@parisarch.fr 

Visit the competition website for more information

Peninsula Spire case study: Q&A with Alistair Barr

The chair of Barr Gazetas discusses lessons learned designing a monument for the new millennium in Greenwich, London

Alistair Barr

Alistair Barr

Alistair Barr

How did your Peninsula Spire create an appropriate monument celebrating the new millennium vision for Greenwich Peninsula?

The vision for Greenwich was completely derailed by the political controversy after the closure of the Millennium Experience [at the Dome] at the end of 2000. We wanted our monument to be an aspirational beacon for the future masterplan and the new users who would transform a polluted and abandoned part of east London. The inspiration was a simple screw shell (Turritella) which illustrated the workings of the Fibonacci series in an elegant and natural way. The technical challenges of making this a 45-metre high stainless-steel spire meant that we could explore the innovative history of the site with our structural and buildability challenges.

Peninsula Spire by Barr Gazetas

Peninsula Spire by Barr Gazetas

Peninsula Spire by Barr Gazetas

But because we were creating a place for people to meet and interact we also wanted there to be a strong craft component that gave a human connection. Two examples of the peninsula’s technical innovation prove how this area was a focus for invention and engineering confidence. Firstly a medieval tidal mill was replaced in 1802 by tidal power inventions that Victorian engineers copied around the world. Secondly, the 1,700-mile transatlantic communication cable was built here and it linked the USA and UK by electronic communications in 1866 after four attempts in nine years. This perseverance and invention marks the beginning of modern global communications.

Peninsula Spire by Barr Gazetas

Peninsula Spire by Barr Gazetas

Peninsula Spire by Barr Gazetas

What architectural, material, and visual methods did you harness in your design?

We designed a small triangular base which twists in a tightening spiral to create an impossibly slender spire. Tuchschmid of Switzerland was the only fabricator that wanted the challenge of building it. It had state-of-the-art computer and welding skill but most crucially it embraced the idea of hand-polishing the whole spire to create a celebration of traditional metal crafts. The height was determined by the desire for it to be visible from the main axis of the masterplan and from the opposite banks of the Thames. The monument effectively fired the starting gun for the 25-year masterplan buildings, which will house 30,000 new residents in a diverse area with retail, offices and leisure provisions.

What advice would you have to contest participants on designing a new monument reflecting the infrastructure challenges of Brexit?

The site is an inspiration. The Channel Tunnel is a monument to UK and European collaboration and engineering. The tunnel will continue to be used and enjoyed but it will remain a symbol of a previous age. The proposals should capture this paradox. This brief wants a response to the most controversial political decision in Europe for 70 years. The historical context is currently short-term and blinkered so the participants should aspire to a more sophisticated and long-term view of the event and its consequences. The design should capture the spirit of the age in a way that is timeless and clear.

Q&A with the Paris School of Architecture

The Paris School of Architecture discusses its ambitions for the competition

Why are your holding a competition for a new Brexit Monument?

We think that, so far, there has been limited engagement with the potential infrastructural and architectural repercussions of the decision of the UK to leave the EU. There has been commentary from the (predominately pro-remain) architectural professional, but little critical review of the problems and potentials of this seismic change in European politics. This competition, which is part of our research season discussing this particular issue, is an opportunity to interrogate what this new relationship will be, albeit in a very modest way. We hope entries will be British, French, and international; at the moment it seems as if the British perspective has an intense polarisation (depending on who one is talking to), whereas on the other side of the channel many people have just moved on and have stopped talking about Brexit. We’d like to try and have this conversation in a language that everyone can understand.

What is your vision for the new structure?

This structure, we hope, will be much more than a billboard expressing a view on the subject one way or the other. A successful entry needs to express a subtlety in negotiating the subject. Probably, the most important element of the project is likely to be site selection. We’re aware that there are local farmers who may be happy to host the structures, but entries must avoid SNCF or Network Rail sites, and we would like to add that anyone who would like to enter must avoid visiting either of the sites, which are very sensitive international transport hubs.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

This project is really aimed at young practitioners, students and recent graduates. We would imagine that more established practices might want to avoid discussing such a potentially sensitive subject.

Are there any other symbolic monuments you have been impressed by?

In France, Laisné Roussel’s Lyon Biennale (2017) was of particularly interest, and for balance, in the UK, Adam Nathanial Furman’s Gateways in King’s Cross (2017). 

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