Client: Monmouth County Council
Sector: Culture, Civic and Sacred
Status: Competition winning concept
Geometry Consultant: Roly Hudson
Quantity Surveyors: Quantem Consulting
Structural Engineers: Buro Happold Engineers
The concept for this project, a landmark for Wales, to be sited beside the M4 as you enter the country just beyond the end of the Severn Bridge, is derived from the name the Welsh people give themselves — cymry. Derived from an older north British or Celtic word, cymry means ‘compatriot’ or ‘fellow countryman’, so that Cymru could also be called ‘Land of the Compatriots’.
The idea is to create a soaring community of ‘compatriots’ in the sky: each an individual, yet all moving as one; appearing to dance with the wind like a flock of birds, with arms outstretched as if flying free in a childlike gesture of pure joy. The constant movement of the piece, which we initially called the ‘Red Cloud’, will allow it to sit sympathetically in its natural setting, swaying gently in harmony with the trees around it, even as its sheer scale takes the breath away.
The landmark consists of 300 larger than life-size figures made of moulded GRP, each of which will be suspended in the air on top of a carbon fibre pole designed to sway in the wind. The poles will vary in height from 7 to 22 metres, with an overall footprint for all 300 weaving a full 100 metre in length and some 15 metres wide. Visitors to the landmark will be able to wander among the poles, experiencing at close hand the height, movement and scale of their ‘fellow countrymen’ soaring free overhead.
With their outstretched arms and straight legs, the form of each figure is a conscious reference to Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitrivuian man, his definitive sketch of the proportions of the human body that remains an iconic image to this day. Leonardo referred to the human form as “the model of the world” and, while we would not allude to quite such a bold statement, it is hoped that the uplifted, forward-facing of our figures will give them a certain optimism and grace, an open and hopeful demeanour as they fly towards a bold future.
As the figures are intended to represent all the people of Wales — men, women and children alike — we are now looking into the possibility of giving each figure its own face, not unlike the terracotta warriors of China. Integral to this concept, our aim is to involve the children of Wales by inviting various schools in the country to put foward the name of someone who they feel best represents the national character, someone form the past or present, perhaps, a national sports person or maybe just someone form their local community.. A plaque placed at the base of the poles will name each person and their place of birth, forming a unique picture of the whole country.