The RIBA has revealed the five finalists in its contest for a ‘dramatic and inspirational’ roadside structure to be known as The Wall of Answered Prayer
Teams vying for the prestigious £10 million commission include recent UK-based graduates Luke Macnab, Andrew Wardrope and Thu Nguyen-Phuoc (supported by FCBS), and emerging Danish architects Mathias Bank Stigsen, Asbjørn Staunstrup Lund and Thomas Sigsgaard Jensen, who won a public vote.
Southampton-based new practice Snug Architects, young Italian architect Stefano Baseggio and Quattro Design Architects from Gloucester complete the shortlist, which was chosen from 134 entries from 24 countries.
The landmark is planned for a prominent, yet-to-be-confirmed 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. Planned to complete in 2023, the structure is expected to equal the size of 62 semi-detached houses.
- Snug Architects, Southampton
- Stefano Baseggio, Italy
- Quattro Design Architects, Gloucester
- Mathias Bank Stigsen, Asbjørn Staunstrup Lund and Thomas Sigsgaard Jensen, Denmark (public vote winner)
- Luke Macnab, Andrew Wardrope and Thu Nguyen-Phuoc – with support from FCBS, Bath
Backed by Christian charity network the Evangelical Council for the Manchester Area Trust, the competition invited designers to submit anonymous proposals for the public art commission.
The concept was devised by former Leicester City FC chaplain Richard Gamble and the contest was funded by more than £47,000 in crowd-funded donations.
Gamble said: ‘We received 134 entries from 24 countries on each continent. We began to recognise that entries were falling into different types, so we decided to choose the best of each to make sure in our final selection there was a real variety.
‘The first round was anonymous and I found it really fascinating talking to the shortlisted architects, whom I was able to meet for the first time yesterday. One of the entries is made by a group of recent graduates and it’s great for them at the start of their career to be shortlisted in a global contest.
‘At the advice of the RIBA we kept the brief as open as possible and it has been fantastic to see how different minds have come up with a variety of concepts and emphasis. The main challenge for each will be to deliver a striking addition to the landscape while also allowing interaction close-up.’
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.
Discussions with politicians and local landowners over a potential site for the new monument have now begun and the location is expected to be announced in the near future. Every brick in the structure will be matched by an additional brick donated for social housing in the UK and overseas.
The 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.
Timms – who hosted an event announcing the designs in Parliament yesterday (7 February) – said: ‘As judges, meeting at the RIBA last November, we had a tough job whittling down the entries. I am particularly pleased to welcome finalists from Denmark and Italy, as well as from the UK.
‘The team will now be encouraging people to contribute experiences of answered prayer to go on the bricks. Those who do contribute will know that this new national landmark will look like one of the designs we unveiled today.’
The five shortlisted teams will each receive £4,000 + VAT to participate in the competition’s second stage with their submissions set to feature in a public exhibition this summer ahead of the announcement of a winner.
Q&A with Richard Gamble, former Leicester City FC chaplain
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.
Which design do you like best?