Historic England has revealed the 10 winning proposals in its ideas contest to rethink the future of memorials across the country
The proposals have been drawn up by a range of designers, artists and historians, including London practice MSMR Architects, and will feature in a public exhibition opening in the capital tomorrow (31 August).
The heritage body ran the competition as part of its Immortalised season, which is exploring the variety of ways people and events have been commemorated around the world.
It follows a number of heated debates over the creation and removal of statues and monuments around the world, including whether London should erect a new statue to late former prime minister, Margaret Thatcher and whether memorials to Cecil Rhodes should remain at the University of Cape Town and at Oriel College Oxford.
Subjects featured in the exhibition include a former mining community in Kent, the first Briton in space, the crystallographer Rosalind Franklin and the 100,000 children shipped off to the colonies without their parents.
Historic England chief executive Duncan Wilson said: ‘We challenged architectural and design talents to think about how they would create memorials that reflect society today.
‘The results are truly innovative and thought-provoking and I’m delighted that we’re able to put them on public view in our new Immortalised exhibition. From the scientist Rosalind Franklin to the first Briton in space, Helen Sharman, and a new way to commemorate the legacy of Edward Colston, the winning designs take a bold, fresh approach to who and how we remember.’
The winning designs in Historic England’s competition will feature in the Immortalised exhibition at The Workshop on Lambeth High Street in London from 31 August to 16 September. There are no plans for a permanent memorial.
The 10 winners
Making the invisible visible - Rosalind Franklin by Jim Bond
Rosalind Franklin helped unravel the mystery of the double helix, yet remains in the shadow of Nobel Prize winners Watson and Crick. Her portrait will be created as a three-dimensional illuminated projection, which will only be visible from one position. Just as Franklin made a simple image of a complex structure, this memorial will emerge from a complex structure of steel wires suspended within a steel frame, making her image appear suspended in space.
Jim Bond is a sculptor specialising in kinetic structures and forms which express the fragility and futility of life.
Helen Sharman - The First Briton in Space by Kyle Ian Dawney Design
Helen Sharman responded to a radio advertisement to be the first British astronaut. She was selected to undertake astronaut training and her launch was on 18 May, 1991. However her story remains relatively unknown. She is reported to have asked the UK Space Agency why she was apparently written out of history when they referred to Major Tim Peake as the first official UK astronaut. This new plaque is designed for her home town of Sheffield and uses ‘super-black’ paint to create a void within which you can see an accurate map of the stars in Sheffield aligned exactly as they were on the day of her launch.
Kyle Ian Dawney is a creative, consultant and designer
A long shadow over London by Studio MASH
Standing tall over the steps to King Charles Street, at the heart of London’s Whitehall, is the figure of General Robert Clive. The statue and the scenes in the bronze relief on the plinth present Clive as a hero of the British Empire in India. In the exhibition this memorial will be paired with a permanent ‘shadow’ etched into paving material that extends from the plinth base and contains a detailed story of the contested history of Clive’s India, representing the suffering of Bengali people during his leadership of the East India Company. The expression to ‘cast a long shadow’ commonly refers to the long-lasting influence (often negative) of a historical figure or event.
Studio MASH was established in 2017 by architecture graduates Max Martin and Conor Sheehan.
The discarded children by Kunyalala Ndlovu
From the age of empire, it has been estimated that more than 100,000 British children were shipped off to the various colonies. The practice of ‘Home Children’ began in the mid-1800s and ran up until the 1970s when children were allegedly deported because it was cheaper to care for them overseas. They were often told their parents had died. This memorial remembers the unwanted children, who were given a wooden trunk and a copy of the Pilgrims Progress when sent away. The memorial is designed to reflect a journey that one can never return from. The viewer is first confronted by a small bronze statue of a small girl holding a big trunk. Behind her is a mirror with names of children who were sent away. Following a series of curved concrete walls, there is a pile of trunks representing the only piece of tangible identity the children took with them.
Kunyalala Ndlovu is a Zimbabwean born, London-based artist, creative producer and film maker with an interest in colonial history.
We Will Be Dead Tings by Abondance Matanda
A new statue is imagined for Black Prince Road in Kennington, South London, celebrating Black girls within London’s deprived estates. “The memorial will be of two girls chilling on a brick wall, one just sitting like you might see on a normal day in the hood, the other bending down and scribbling ‘Gyaldem Woz Ere’ on it in a permanent marker pen.” Dead Ting is urban slang for ugly girl and the name of an essay that Abondance has written celebrating three women who have turned their lives around and recognised their own beauty.
Abondance Matanda is an arts and culture writer and poet.
The Long Line by Katrina Porteous and Peter Zinovieff
The Long Line is a commemoration of the overlooked men, women and children of the north Northumberland fishing community from Holy Island to Craster. For centuries, women and children gathered mussels and baited the hooks of long lines, a grinding, unpaid form of fishing which changed in 1918 with the introduction of the engine. This sound installation is designed to give voice to the community of men, women and children, who for centuries lived and worked beside and on the North Sea, yet whose intimate relation to the place left little physical impact upon it. It will include new poetry by Katrina Porteous, archive of dialect voices and specially composed music by Peter Zinovieff.
Katrina Porteous is an artist, poet, historian and broadcaster who lives on the Northumberland coast. Dr Peter Zinovieff is a pioneer of electronic music and founder of London’s Electronic Music Studio.
Commemorating the Mining Community of the Kent Coalfields by Studio Evans Lane
The Kent Coalfields were among the first pioneering centres of coal mining in the UK, following the discovery of coal seams in 1886. This memorial commemorates the people of the Kent Coalfields. It will be formed of an installation of individual miners’ ‘checks’, a form of identity tag carried for identification in the case of an accident. Each check carries a unique number representing every miner at each of the Kent coalmines. Their story will be told via an audio recording of the miners’ voices with pictures and video footage.
Studio Evans Lane is a London-based architectural design studio established by Tim Evans and Elizabeth Lane in 2014.
Contextualising Colston by MSMR Architects
For 120 years a bronze statue of Edward Colston has stood at Bristol’s city centre with the inscription “Erected by citizens of Bristol as a memorial of one of the most virtuous and wise sons of their city”. Colston’s links to the slave trade have led to the statue being vandalised. It is listed at Grade II. Contextualising Colston commemorates Colston’s history in a new way, by acknowledging his philanthropy at home whilst surrounding him, inescapably, with the source of his wealth – slaves. In the design for this piece, Colston’s statue remains in situ while in effect placed on board a ship – the hull is represented by an imagined scoop taken out of the landscape to create an open, contemplative space. This way he is surrounded by his mortal cargo. The slaves are commemorated on a par with Colston, each outline filled with different materials, expressing individuality.
MSMR Architects, founded in 2000, thrives on challenges of contemporary architectural design in complex urban environments.
Friction Match - John Walker Commemoration by Stamatis Zografos, Eva Bachmann and Uli Gamper
In 1826 in Stockton-on-Tees John Walter accidentally discovered the friction match, which made fire easily and rapidly available to everyone. A first attempt to commemorate Walker was made in 1893 when a brass plaque was installed in the city centre. It carried the wrong inscription and was removed. In 1977 a statue was erected, but unfortunately it was modelled on the wrong John Walker. In 2001 a large plastic match sculpture was put up and swiftly taken down due to popular dislike. This new memorial is designed to be ephemeral and participatory. In theory, multiple matchbox installations that carry the correct image of John Walker would be installed around the city. His complete image is formed when matchboxes are placed next to each other. Visitors could take away a matchbox until the image disappears.
Stamatis Zografos is an architect and academic and a teaching fellow at the Bartlett School of Architecture. Eva Bachmann is a visual artist and educator. Uli Gamper is a recent graduate in Museum Studies and also in Design.
The Common Chorus - Death and Remembrance Sound by Studio Mash and Sam Morley Design
The Common Chorus is an endlessly evolving musical piece, made up of memorial tones for the recently deceased, played out across the landscape. It is a response to the shortage of burial space and adapting funerary and mourning processes, without losing the consoling permanence of a gravestone for grieving loved ones. In the exhibition, a patch of grass conceals speakers which play the evolving memorial composition.
Studio MASH was established in 2017 by architecture graduates Max Martin and Conor Sheehan. Sam Morley is a multimedia designer who works at the intersection of digital and analogue experience.