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
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.
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: ‘It was a real thrill for us to hit our crowdfunding target earlier in the year. That has enabled us to partner with the RIBA to run a global design competition. Now in just a matter of months we will be able to get an idea of what The Wall of Answered Prayer will look like.’
The wall is expected to play a major role in boosting regeneration in its surrounding area, rivalling Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North (pictured), 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.
The deadline for submissions is 2pm on 7 November.
How to apply
Visit the competition website for more information
Q&A with Richard Gamble
Where did the idea come from?
I got the idea 13 years ago while I was doing a piece of performance art about Jesus. The intention is that The Wall of Answered Prayer will be a beacon of hope to people, and provoke conversation around prayer. Not everyone of course will warm to the religious aspect of the project, but it is our aim that all will be able to appreciate the architectural art in itself. Economically we are estimating, based on the Angel of the North, that The Wall will bring several hundred million pounds of benefit in the first 10 years to the area in which we site it.
What are you looking for in the landmark?
We have tried to formulate a brief with the RIBA which affords the architect as much flexibility as possible. We want to give them space to be creative and have fun with the design specification. So in that spirit we have not limited the definition of ‘brick’ nor restricted their interpretation of ‘wall’. We are keen for the wall in its size to create an intrigue. 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 them is to be able 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. We are really interested to see how they tackle (hopefully with technology) of building the link between the answered prayer and ‘the brick’
What sort of architects are you hoping will apply?
The competition is anonymous at phase 1, so it really will be design led. In phase 2, once a shortlist is established, if any of the designers needs to team up with others to be able to deliver then, through the RIBA, we will be happy to support them to do this. I have carried the concept of The Wall of Answered Prayer for 13 years without actually knowing what it will look like. I have always believed that someone on this planet will know, and that’s who we are going to find through this competition. I have no limitations or preconceived ideas on who that will be; if their design is one the nation will be proud of, that will be good enough for me.
Why are designs being selected prior to the final site being chosen?
In phase 1 we are asking architects for a concept design. We have employed Keystone Projects to assist with our site search and are aiming to have the shortlist of sites narrowed down to one by May. Then we will go to our shortlist and ask them to design the wall with the details of the site, keeping the concept design core.