War Memorials

We had Top 10 Works of Public Art last week, but I thought we should have a separate category for war memorials. Here are the ones that I think best combine beauty and dignity, and which bring an unexpected prickle to the eyes.

  1. Tjentiste Monument in Bosnia and Herzegovina Commemorates the Battle of the Sutjeska against the Germans in 1943. Nominated by Alen Mattich.
  2. Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme Designed by Edwin Lutyens. Proposed by Labour History Group.
  3. The Civil War memorial at the Commandery, Worcester Commemorating the final battle of the English Civil War, in 1651. Suggested by Adam Care.
  4. Royal Artillery Memorial, Hyde Park “Here was a royal fellowship of death,” reads the inscription. “This is, I think, is London’s saddest war memorial,” says Daniel Hannan.
  5. The Brooding Soldier The Canadian memorial at Vancouver Corner on the Ypres Salient in Belgium. From Auntie Shaz.
  6. The Motherland Calls, Volgograd An 87m-high statue in the city that was formerly Stalingrad. “I know it’s OTT and the product of Stalinism but I like it,” says Matt Prissick.
  7. Tower of London Remembers Ceramic poppies by Paul Cummins, with setting by Tom Piper. “The best new piece of public-realm art for years,” believes Mark Pack.
  8. Air Forces Memorial, Runnymede “They leave a landing light on each night for all pilots still lost and not returned to base,” says Warren Row of this Surrey Grade II-listed building.
  9. Soldier Field, Chicago The 1924 American football stadium built as a memorial to US soldiers who died in wars. Now home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears. With thanks to Duncan Weldon.
  10. Jacobite memorial at Glenfinnan A solitary kilted highlander atop an 18m-high column, nominated by Alex Massie. Bad cause, fine monument. Might be my favourite.

Originally published in the Independent on 9th November 2014.


Public Art

Most public art is horrible, in my philistine opinion (the Philistines being a maligned and cultured people), usually made bearable only by the greater awfulness of the modern architecture around it. But some of it is good. War memorials are in a category of their own, see below.

  1. ‘Out of Order’ (1989) By David Mach. The “domino phone boxes” in Kingston- upon-Thames. “Not spectacular or meaningful, but fond memories,” says Katherine Drayson.
  2. Michelangelo’s ‘David’ (1504) Linda Smith says it was originally conceived as public art and is therefore “hard to beat”. She is right.
  3. ‘Skin 2’ (2010) By Mehmet Ali Uysal. A giant clothes peg in a park outside Liège, Belgium. Nominated by Simon Potter and identified by Neil Jefferies.
  4. Statue of Liberty, New York (1886) This 93m-high symbolic figure was designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. Nominated by Clive Davis.
  5. ‘Freedom’ (2000) By Zenos Frudakis. Outside GlaxoSmith-Kline’s head office in Philadelphia. A naked man emerges in stages from a wall of bronze.
  6. Trafalgar Square Lions (1867) By Sir Edwin Landseer.
  7. ‘Winston Churchill’, Parliament Square, London (1973) By Ivor Roberts-Jones. Nominated by Sir Michael Barber and by Jack Evans, who says: “I love the way he looks at Parliament in such a scathing way.”
  8. ‘The Bull’ in the Bullring, Birmingham (2003) Actually titled The Guardian , a 2.2m-high bronze sculpture of a running, turning bull, created by Laurence Broderick. Nominated by Andrew Denny.
  9. Stanley Matthews statue at the Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent (2001) Three figures made by a team of local sculptors. Nominated by C Keeling.
  10. ‘Conversation à Nice’ (2007) By Jaume Plensa. Seven seated figures on 12m-high poles in Massena Square in Nice, France. Nominated by Helen Catt: “They’re not exactly pretty but they are quite striking.”

Originally published in the Independent on 2nd November 2014.


Fictional Buildings

The recent Top 10 Great Buildings we ran here was inspired by Tom Wilkinson’s book ‘Bricks & Mortals: Ten Great Buildings and the People They Made’, which started with the Tower of Babel. As no one knows what that looked like, or whether it existed, I thought fictional buildings deserved a list of their own.

  1. The stately pleasure-dome of Xanadu Decreed by Kubla Khan in Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan”. From Roger White.
  2. Ministry of Truth George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Proposed (nervously) by Michael Ezra, Davey Barton and Ruth Muirhead.
  3. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry “A huge, rambling, quite scary-looking castle, with a jumble of towers and battlements.” How JK Rowling said she visualised it.
  4. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Aka Milliways.) Title of the second book in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. From Chris Jones and Davey Barton.
  5. 221B Baker Street Sherlock Holmes’ rooms. Offered as evidence by Michael Ezra and Ben Ross.
  6. Bag End Home of Bungo, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, in Hobbiton, the Shire, Middle-earth.
  7. The Death Star From Star Wars. Zapped into our sightlines by Sarah.
  8. The Batcave under Wayne Manor Secret HQ of Batman, otherwise known as Bruce Wayne. Signalled by Delbert.
  9. The Drones Club Haunt of Bertie Wooster, Pongo Twistleton, Boko Fittleworth et al. Put forth by Dan Jackson.
  10. Cair Paravel Castle and capital of Narnia; seat of the four thrones. Offered up by Isabel.

Originally published in the Independent on 26th October 2014.