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Studio Octopi and Mark Wallinger complete Magna Carta memorial

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The wraps have been taken off a major new artwork at Runnymede in Surrey celebrating the Magna Carta, designed by Studio Octopi with Turner Prize-winning artist Mark Wallinger

Last summer the National Trust revealed it had commissioned the duo to create the new installation, entitled Writ in Water, at the base of Coopers Hill.

The ‘Great Charter’ was signed by King John at the rural site near Windsor more than 800 years ago, and the document played a major role in the development of common law globally. The artwork is partly inspired by Clause 39, which is still part of English law and establishes the basis for trial by jury.

The circular rammed-earth building sits on a meadow flanked by the River Thames on one side and an ox-bow lake on the other. Its name of is taken from the inscription on John Keats’s gravestone, which reads: ‘Here lies one whose name was writ in water.’

The entrance leads into a ‘simple circular labyrinth’ which opens out into a central chamber featuring an open oculus above a pool of water described as ’reflective as a still font’. 

The inner sides of the pool are inscribed with Clause 39, ‘the water reflecting, the reversed and inverted lettering as the visitor moves round the pool to reveal its words’.

Commenting on the project, Wallinger said: ‘In Writ in Water, the use of reflection to make the text legible plays against the idea of a law written in stone. Magna Carta curtailed this divine right and issued the first secular writ.

‘Keats though despairing of his legacy, was to become one of the immortals and his words live anew when learnt and repeated by every succeeding generation. Similarly, although Magna Carta established the law and the nascent principles of human rights, the United Kingdom has no written constitution. What seems like a birthright has to be learned over and over and made sense of. Whether the words are ephemeral or everlasting is up to us.’

Originally scheduled to complete in February, the memorial will open to the public tomorrow (16 June).




Project data

Location - Runnymede
Type of project - art pavilion
Client - National Trust
Architect - Studio Octopi
Artist - Mark Wallinger
Landscape architect - none
Planning consultant - Savills
Structural engineer - Built Engineers
M&E consultant - none
Quantity surveyor - Castle Davis
Planning supervisor - Savills
Lighting consultant - none. No power to site
Main contractor - Harris Calnan
Completion date - June 2018

Mark wallinger, writ in water, credit national trust images john millar

Mark wallinger, writ in water, credit national trust images john millar

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