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Welsh landmarks contest abandoned in aftermath of Iron Ring furore

Winner: Iron Ring by George King Architects
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George King Architects’ competition-winning Iron Ring artwork has been formally abandoned following a protest against the ‘disrespectful’ monument branded an ‘insult to Wales’

The Welsh government announced it was halting development of the installation last week, ending a review period which commenced just days after the contentious design was revealed. 

In a statement, the government confirmed it would instead focus on delivering a Purcell-designed masterplan for the historic site, which could include an ‘alternative major art installation as a potential component of the investment’. A parallel competition for a separate £400,000 landmark at another heritage site in Wales has also been abandoned.

Economy and infrastructure secretary Ken Skates said: ‘We acknowledge that the proposal for the Iron Ring sculpture has been divisive and, following extremely constructive and productive meetings with local stakeholders, have taken the decision not to proceed with the proposed design.

‘Instead, we will use the investment allocated for the artwork to help deliver the wider masterplan for the foreshore, taking in the views of local people. This will include developing a range of capital investments for the area and holding a number of events and activities to increase the understanding of the history of the castle and the significance of the foreshore.’

George King Architects was named winner of an international competition for the Welsh government-backed commission in July. The London and Gloucestershire-based studio’s winning structure was earmarked for a plot at Flint Castle, built in the late 13th century as part of Edward I’s campaign to conquer Wales.

The Iron Ring was planned as a 7m-high, 30m-wide sculpture symbolising a giant rusted crown. The structure was intended to represent the relationship between the medieval monarchies of Europe and the castles they built.

But the Iron Ring was also the name associated with Edward I’s string of fortifications starting at Flint and spanning Beaumaris, Conwy, Caernarfon and Harlech.

More than 11,000 people signed an online petition objecting to the artwork. The petition text reads: ‘We the undersigned oppose the building of the Iron Ring outside of Flint Castle as we are well aware of the historical significance of Edward I and his so called Iron Ring as a use to subjugate and oppress our people.

‘We find this extremely disrespectful to the people of Wales and our ancestors who have battled oppression, subjugation and injustice for hundreds of years. We ask that you please rethink the decision to build this monument and use the money elsewhere.’

Now the AJ can exclusively reveal images (see above) of the rival installations in the Flint Castle contest by Gordon Young, Partnership Observatorium and Rubin Eynon. Finalist designs included the multicoloured ‘Coron’ gateway by Partnership Observatorium; a stone circle containing quotes from Shakespeare’s history plays, by Gordon Young; and an 8m-tall metallic dog by Rubin Eynon.

The two contests, open to artists and designers, aimed to replicate the crowd-drawing success of Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North and Paul Cummins’ Tower of London poppies installation.

The unveiling of the project, backed by the government’s Cadw heritage wing, was planned to form the centrepiece of Wales’s 2017 Year of Legends cultural programme, aimed at boosting tourism.

The shortlisted concepts

Ring of Iron by George King Architects (winner)

Winner: Iron Ring by George King Architects

Winner: Iron Ring by George King Architects

Winner: Iron Ring by George King Architects

Hollow Crown by Gordon Young

Shortlisted: Hollow Crown by Gordon Young

Shortlisted: Hollow Crown by Gordon Young

Shortlisted: Hollow Crown by Gordon Young

Coron by Partnership Observatorium

Shortlisted: Coron by Partnership Observatorium

Shortlisted: Coron by Partnership Observatorium

Shortlisted: Coron by Partnership Observatorium

Mathe by Rubin Eynon

Shortlisted: Mathe by Rubin Eynon

Shortlisted: Mathe by Rubin Eynon

Shortlisted: Mathe by Rubin Eynon

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