Quest is on for the angel of the East

LANDMARKS like the colossal Angel of the North have always generated controversy. They are derided as a waste of many or regarded as a symbol of regional identityBut like it or loathe it, the Angel, which towers 20m over its hilltop landscape and heralds the gateway to Tyneside, has won international recognition and put the Northeast on the map.

LANDMARKS like the colossal Angel of the North have always generated controversy.

They are derided as a waste of many or regarded as a symbol of regional identity

But like it or loathe it, the Angel, which towers 20m over its hilltop landscape and heralds the gateway to Tyneside, has won international recognition and put the Northeast on the map.

Now, a major international competition is inviting bids to create a landmark of similar impact in the East of England.


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Regional identity is the byword for the Landmark East project, launched by the East of England Development Agency. Whatever the idea, whether its is a sculpture, a building, conservation project or even a piece of music, it must embody some aspect of the East.

Entries might focus upon our natural environment, heritage, innovation, renewable energy, art and culture. Judges will be looking for an icon to represent the region to the rest of the world.

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Artist, sculptors, engineers, entrepreneurs, local authorities, anyone with an idea and the wherewithal to deliver it, are being invited to submit ideas.

It is hoped that the resulting landmark will help boost the economies of the six counties in the East and inspire a sense of pride and unity in the region.

It is a tough order. To do it badly could be worse than not doing it at all. Aside from the question of what it should be, there is also the question of where it should be located. Where within the six counties of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex would have greatest impact and would most anchor a sense of regional identity?

With a Suffolk bias, we might imagine a giant structure, like a Suffolk punch, straddling one of the major roundabouts welcoming freight lorries leaving the port of Felixstowe.

Or, as has been suggested in the past, a huge wind turbine rising from the sea at the Eastern most point of the country in Lowestoft. But Hertfordshire, the home of British Aerospace, could equally make a bid for a vast jet engine,

Cambridgeshire for a sculpture of the elusive Fen Tiger or chain of DNA – to mark the achievements of Cambridge scientists Dr James Crick and Dr Francis Watson who helped unravel the "secret of life."

There will be some who believe we have gone landmark crazy, with many towns across the region already striving to construct their own representational icons. We have the roundabout horse at Newmarket, Maggi Hambling's sculpture on Aldeburgh beach, dubbed the Scallop of the East, and the Haverhill Gateway spirit of enterprise sculpture.

Robert Maidment, of Haverhill Enterprise 2000, said: "Landmarks are a good idea so long as they are relevant to a certain place and in the right location. The concept of a regional landmark seems too diluted. Whereas in Haverhill our sculpture is intended as a focus for the people of Haverhill who want to align themselves with the wellbeing of the town, looking the East as a whole, there is no capital or obvious place for a landmark."

Bob Feltwell, chief executive of the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, was equally dubious about a symbolic representation of regional pride.

He said: "We would be in favour of a practical, working landmark, rather than a symbol for a very diverse region. How do you come up with a symbol that encompasses Aerospace in Hertfordshire and farming in Norfolk?"

He cited the Snoasis project, which should bring in millions of people to Claydon every year and includes a landmark building, as a possible contender.

Anthea Case, chair of the judging panel, said: "We are here to identify something exciting and achievable that helps drive economic development and puts the East of England on the map. Most of all, it should be a source of great pride. It could be literally anything, anywhere in the region."

Yasmin Shariff, in charge of Landmark East, added: "This is a chance for us to come together as a region and decide how we want to present the East of the England to the rest of the world."

Three "winners" will be awarded a total of £250,000 between them to help develop the ideas further.

Judges include Professor Sir David King, the Government's chief scientific advisor; Tim Bishop, the head of regional programming for BBC East;

Bill Macnaught, head of cultural development for Gateshead council, which was behind the Angel of the North.

The deadline for entries is February 18 with the final judging in April. For a copy of the competition brief contact the Royal Institute of British Architects on 0113 2341335 or go to www.ribacompetitions.com or www.landmarkeast.org.uk

A quick brainstorming session at the EADT resulted in a few of our own ideas:

1 – A giant sculpture on the theme of radio waves/information dissemination.

(Marconi, the pioneer of radio, operated from Chelmsford, early work on radar was carried out on Orford Ness, BT's research and development operation is based outside Ipswich and Cambridge is a hot-spot for technology of all kinds, including communications)

2 – A pyramid, pointing to the skies of the East which have inspired great artists such as Constable and Gainsborough.

3 – A replica Thames barge

4 – A giant reproduction of the Sutton Hoo Anglo Saxon burial ship or mask

5 – An opera based on the life of Edmund, King of East Anglia

6 - A tall star of the east or rising sun sculpture on Lowestoft beach - the most easterly part of the region and the UK

n What do you think? Email us at eadtletters@eadt.co.uk, but include your postal address, write to Letters to the Editor, EADT, 30 Lower Brook St, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP4 1AN, or fax a letter on 01473 324871.

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