The RIBA has announced an open international design competition for a ‘dramatic and inspirational’ roadside structure to be known as The Wall of Answered Prayer (Deadline: 7 November)
The landmark is planned for a prominent location on a motorway outside London and will be constructed from a million bricks, each one symbolising a prayer answered, and funded by a £10 donation. The completed structure will equal the size of 62 semi-detached houses.
Backed by Christian charity Network, the Evangelical Council for the Manchester Area Trust, the competition invites ‘talented designers’ to submit anonymous proposals for the public art commission.
Source: image by david wilson clarke
The concept was devised by former Leicester City FC chaplain Richard Gamble and has so far received more than £47,000 in crowdfunded donations.
Commenting on the contest, Gamble said: ‘We are keen for the wall in its size to create an intrigue and we are not looking for obvious Christian symbolism, rather it needs to have a degree of subtlety and hopefully fly in the face of what people would expect a religious landmark to be.
‘I think the key challenge for competitors will be to produce a piece of architecture which captures the attention of the passer-by, but also engages the visitor when they stand in front of it.’
The wall is expected to play a major role in boosting regeneration in its surrounding area, rivalling Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North, which generates substantial revenues for the local economy each year.
A shortlist of sites for the new monument is being considered and its exact location is expected to be announced next year. Every brick in the structure will be matched by an additional brick donated for social housing in the UK and overseas.
Judges include Renato Benedetti of Benedetti Architects, acting as RIBA adviser; BBC TV Songs of Praise presenter Pam Rhodes; and MP Stephen Timms, an evangelical Christian.
Benedetti said: ‘We are looking for very high quality, deliverable, innovative submissions which will inspire and intrigue.’
Timms added: ‘This project has created a lot of interest since the idea was launched earlier this year, with many people asking what might this prayer landmark look like.
‘Over these coming months, we will see people around the world join the journey, submitting concept designs. I anticipate a large number of entries to keep the judges on our toes, as we carefully see the next stage of this project come alive.’
Up to five shortlisted teams will each receive £4,000 + VAT to participate in the competition’s second stage.
How to apply
The deadline for submissions is 2pm on 7 November
Tel: +44 (0)1455 888688
Visit the competition website for more information
Gold Leaf Buried Sunlight case study: Q&A with Louise Scullion and Matthew Dalziel
The artistic duo discuss lessons learned designing a new landmark overlooking the M42 motorway
How did your Gold Leaf: Buried Sunlight create a memorable roadside monument for the Midlands?
The sculpture was designed for the top of an old colliery waste mound that sits on a triangular piece of land curtailed by the M42 motorway, the Coventry Canal and the West Coast Railway line. The land was starting to regenerate after a long period of industrial activity, although raw and almost lunar in places, the land was full of character and starting to become naturalised by encroaching trees, such as birch that are often the first plant to colonise such sites, as they are shallow rooting and can cope with toxins in the soil. As the land was beginning to be used recreationally it was taken over by local parks management who commissioned the work as a public sign of this change of use. The 12 metre-high tower is a stack of aluminium strips formed in the shape of a birch leaf. The outer surface is covered in gold leaf that catches the sunlight. The idea of a leaf, or indeed millions of leaves, performing the alchemy of anchoring air borne CO2, through sunlight and into earth locked carbon - is a powerful symbol of both Pooley’s past and its future. We saw the gold finish as a reflection of the wealth that was created during that industrial period and the value of green spaces and clean air in our increasingly urbanized world. The gold tower, which forms the focal point of the park, is thus a marriage of sculptural form and rich symbolism.
Pooley County Park
What issues are important when designing an iconic and highly-visual structure intended to evoke strong emotions?
Context is very important, how does the work physically relate to the site and what’s around it, how does it relate to the history of the site and the values embedded in the site, of course, in time the artwork can also become a context of sorts. Time is also fundamental to this type of work; the artwork has to remain relevant and engaging over years or decades with shifting values and tastes, the design needs to take this into consideration. Scale can be an important issue to work with, it can be provocative, surreal and inspiring but needs very careful handling to ‘work’ in any given context.
Pooley County Park
How would you set about designing a new roadside monument to symbolize prayers answered?
This is a potentially controversial project, the heady mix of Christianity, married to the symbolism of a wall are volatile ingredients to bring to the table, so both commissioners and designers would need to feel totally comfortable with the ethos of the project and be capable of handling the diverse attention it would inevitably generate. In this project working with the medium of bricks also seems to be in place, whilst some artists / designers will enjoy working within these constraints, others might have wanted more scope to explore and interpret the brief. That said there are some fantastic religious sculptures in Eastern countries of epic proportions that are warmly embraced by their audiences and create theatrical destinations for people to visit. Taking on a project like this, would require clarity, imagination and perhaps being more than a little brave!
Pooley County Park