Monday, 22 November 2010

Some thoughts on Scottish memorial design

It never ceases to amaze me that decades after the end of the Second World War there are still war memorials being erected to that conflict. The latest to be unveiled was in the Port of Leith on Remembrance day and was closely followed by another memorial to the Merchant Navy just last week.

What makes these memorial unveilings special is the fact they are both very distinctive memorials. They could easily have been traditional designs but in both cases they have taken a standard format and given it a twist. The first to be unveiled was the Leith Academy WW2 memorial. Here the list of names follows a rational style but the way it is displayed is distinctive. The names are inscribed on a glass panel and behind that is a stylized map of the British Isles where the land is made to look like the zigzag camouflage applied to ships during the war.

It really is quite a stunning memorial and what makes it even more impressive is that most of the work was done by Leith Academy pupils. The driving force behind it was pupil Glynn Mullen who compiled the list of names; four art pupils designed it and technical pupils made it. It is a credit to them and their school.

The second memorial unveiled was the Merchant Navy memorial. I already posted about the unveiling last week but what I didn't mention was the memorial itself, and what a cracker it is. The artist responsible is Jill Watson. Her latest work takes a traditional memorial obelisk but adds so much detail it makes it unique in Scotland. Earlier commissions of hers such as the Eyemouth Fishing Disaster memorial used small figurines for effect and she has taken this a step further in her latest, and biggest, work.

Between them these two Leith memorials have raised the bar for Scottish war memorial design. Here's hoping future designers look to Leith for inspiration and come up with something new and thought provoking and not just the usual scaled up gravestones or stainless steel plaques which we have seen of late.

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