Dunwich landmark bid 'may never happen'

THE chances of a controversial landmark based on the lost city of Dunwich becoming a reality are "almost non-existent", it has been claimed.Art lover Simon Loftus, who is chairman of Southwold brewery Adnams and was a member of the judging panel set up to look at entries to a competition to find a landmark for the East of England, said he saw it as a concept, rather than something that would ever be brought to fruition.

THE chances of a controversial landmark based on the lost city of Dunwich becoming a reality are "almost non-existent", it has been claimed.

Art lover Simon Loftus, who is chairman of Southwold brewery Adnams and was a member of the judging panel set up to look at entries to a competition to find a landmark for the East of England, said he saw it as a concept, rather than something that would ever be brought to fruition.

The scheme, which he described as "wonderful, poetic and imaginative", was one of a number he voted for to go on a shortlist of entries. However, he was not able to attend the final judging session where the winners were chosen.

Young German architects Anne Niemann and Johannes Ingrisch came up with an ambitious proposal to recreate the six lost churches of Dunwich by creating huge, polished steel sculptures through a series of piles placed in the sea where the buildings once would have stood.

The scheme was one of four winners in the East of England Development Agency's Landmark East contest, and won a share of a £250,000 award to carry out a feasibility study on the project.

However, many residents of Dunwich are highly critical of the scheme, which they feel would not be feasible in such a sensitive and remote location.

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And Mr Loftus says he does not believe that East Anglia should have a colossal landmark to rival the Angel of the North, and felt the competition should be about exploring ideas and concepts rather than producing a physical end result.

He eventually resigned from the competition steering group "because I felt that the value of this competition was more about stimulating ideas than actually translating some of these things into practice". However, he stressed there was no great upset. "I'm not resigning in a huff," he said.

The "huff and puff" surrounding the Dunwich project was "largely artificial", given its chances of getting off the ground, said Mr Loftus.

Apart from anything else, it would cost "many, many millions of some sort of public money", he said.

"I think the likelihood of anyone coming up with the cash to make it a reality is almost non-existent. I think it would be very surprising if it came to fruition," he said.

"I think it's a lovely idea. The fact I think it's a great idea and should be recognised does not mean I think it should be made."

Mr Loftus was a strong backer of artist Maggi Hambling's controversial scallop shell sculpture at Aldeburgh and was involved in fundraising for it, but he said the two projects were quite different in nature, and Miss Hambling's sculpture was on a far smaller scale.

There were ideas in the EEDA contest which he felt had practical potential such as an environmental scheme, but they did not win through, he said.

"The point is the idea is great to have and it's a lovely thing to think about and contemplate and maybe it would be an idea to make a model of it," he said. "It was a very beautiful image and I think it's worth recognising that and saying this is a wonderful, poetic image."

If it did become a reality, locals would be "incandescent", he said.

Architect Anne Niemann said it was "worth trying" to make it a reality, although she recognised there were challenges.

"I think it's always a challenge to have an idea and a concept and then to make it a reality," she said. "It's hard work to make a good project out of an idea of course."

They were planning to start their feasibility study in October and at the moment were talking to two engineering companies about the project. They also needed to draw up a traffic and transportation concept, she said.

"I don't think it's easy at all but at least I want to try," she said.

n A touring exhibition featuring the winning ideas in the EEDA contest will be at The Forum, Norwich from September 9 to 12, from 10am to 4pm weekdays and Saturday, and 10am to 5pm on Sunday, September 12, The Guildhall, Cambridge, from September 16 to 19 and Shire Hall, Chelmsford, from October 14 to 17.

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