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Snug wins Wall of Answered Prayer contest

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Snug Architects has won a long-running competition for a ‘dramatic and inspirational’ roadside structure to be known as the Wall of Answered Prayer

The Southampton-based practice was chosen from an international shortlist following a lengthy RIBA-run competition, which launched three years ago and received 134 entries from 24 countries.

The 50m-high structure will be built on a 4ha site between the M6, M42 and proposed HS2 line at Coleshill Manor on the edge of Birmingham. It will be constructed from a million bricks, each one funded by a £10 donation and symbolising a prayer answered.

The design was inspired by a Möbius strip and incorporates a visitor centre. 

Planned to complete in 2022, the £10 million structure is expected to equal the size of 62 semi-detached houses. Snug’s winning scheme features innovative technology which will allow visitors to read the answered prayers relating to each brick using their phones.

Snug Architects ranked second in an AJ online poll held when the shortlist was announced. The practice’s design director Paul Bulkeley said: ‘It is an honour to have been chosen to design and deliver this project of national significance.

‘We are excited by the vision behind this groundbreaking project and are looking forward to working with the team to see it become a reality. At Snug Architects we believe this will be a structure that both inspires and engages visitors for many years to come.’

The concept was devised by former Leicester City FC chaplain Richard Gamble and backed by Christian charity network the Evangelical Council for the Manchester Area Trust. The contest was funded by more than £47,000 in crowd-funded donations.

Gamble said: ‘This 15-year-old vision is now becoming reality. I’m chuffed to bits with the design which handled perfectly the challenge of creating intrigue when being seen from afar, yet provides a truly interactive journey for those who visit.

‘We want to create an iconic structure the nation will not only be proud of but find inspirational – it will be a landmark of hope.’

Every brick in the structure will be matched by an additional brick donated for social housing in the UK and overseas.

The judges included Renato Benedetti of Benedetti Architects, who was the RIBA’s adviser; BBC TV Songs of Praise presenter Pam Rhodes; and MP Stephen Timms, an evangelical Christian.

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.

The finalists – who included UK-based graduates Luke Macnab, Andrew Wardrope and Thu Nguyen-Phuoc (supported by FCBS); young Italian architect Stefano Baseggio and Quattro Design Architects from Gloucester – each received £4,000 + VAT to develop their concepts.

Shortlisted emerging Danish architects Mathias Bank Stigsen, Asbjørn Staunstrup Lund and Thomas Sigsgaard Jensen – who won a public vote – walked away from the contest in 2017.

The shortlist

  • Snug Architects, Southampton (WINNER)
  • 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 
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