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Routemaster bus is gateway to London

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Last year, cartoonist Ralph Steadman launched the AJ-backed competition to design an entrance to London. Here, we reveal the winning entries…

A monumental gateway built from stacked Routemaster buses has landed first prize in the Entrance to London competition run by GEZE UK in partnership with the AJ. Sebastian Messer, an architect and teacher based in Newcastle, modelled his entrance (above) on Edwin Lutyens’ Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme in France. The bizarre scheme struck a chord with competition judge Ralph Steadman, whose original ‘Frankenstein’ gateway, unveiled in AJ 16.10.08, served as inspiration to contestants. The framed original was presented to Messer at an awards dinner at Quaglino’s restaurant, London, last month.

‘This ludicrous piece of wonderful madness was the clear winner,’ cartoonist Steadman told the AJ. Fellow jury member Terry Farrell was also impressed. ‘It cleverly picks up on what is probably the most iconic object that represents London,’ he said.

Messer, a lecturer at Northumbria University’s School of the Built Environment, said he was surprised and amazed that his work caught the jury’s eye. ‘Ralph Steadman is a hero of mine, so it’s a real honour to win.’ Messer added that he has used the competition concept as a project for his students.

‘This competition was an attempt to release the fanciful inner demons of an architect’s mind’

Five other designs were named runners-up, with three more commended for their draughtsmanship. They included an entrance formed from playing cards, a kissing gate in the shadow of the City of London, and a giant arched hand bearing jewellery modelled on London’s landmarks.

Steadman presented each runner-up with a signed, limited-edition print of his work. At the dinner, Steadman also marked the death of his friend, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas author Hunter S Thompson, who died on the same day four years earlier.

GEZE UK’s managing director Andrew Hall, who sat on the jury alongside AJ features editor Rory Olcayto, said: ‘This has been an intriguing, interesting and inspiring competition for us all. We judged all the finalists on the creativity, originality and architectural interest of their entries.’


1. Baubles and Gems by Sarah Akigbogun
2. Entrance to London by Leith Kerr
3. At the End of a Long Walk, a Gateway
to London by Dan Tassell
4. Londinia by Dirk Bolt
5. Kaartenhuis by Ad Roefs

Special commendations

6. Trickled Truths by Claire Beard
7. Schrodinger’s Cat got Free by
David Hasson
8. Scene 01 by Tim Wolfe-Murray

Ralph Steadman

This competition was a serious attempt to release the fanciful inner demons of an architect’s private mind, as one would release a flock of caged birds.

I suspect that many serious architects steered clear of what may have appeared to be a flippant exercise, and even an affront to the position they may hold in the grand order of things. Some may have suspected that my connection was some kind of trap. But I was engaged to inspire, dammit, not ridicule with my own attempt at an awe-inspiring edifice that would get juices flowing. Thankfully, I was surprised and heartened by the sense of surreal fun exhibited by entrants.

The jury’s opinions fluctuated and minds changed like traffic lights. Arm wrestles subsided into vague preferences until it was decided to choose six winning entries and three commendations.

Terry Farrell

I was once invited by former deputy London mayor Nicky Gavron, with former mayor Ken Livingstone’s backing, to look at ideas to provide London with a series of gateways. The problem then was how do you provide a gateway for a city with a multitude of different arrival experiences? You can enter London by air, road, boat or country lane and, of course, underground or mainline railway.

And so, with the Entrance to London submissions it was the symbolic, hypothetical, tongue-in-cheek gateways that attracted everyone’s attention. Rarely in my experience has competition judging been so entertaining, so convivial and with so much fun and chat.

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