Monumental signal that you've arrived in Scotland
THERE will no longer be any doubt that you have entered Scotland. A £2 million landmark to rival the Angel of the North is to be built on the Border with England.
• You are here: how the Angel of the North would look next to the M74. Below: Charles Jencks with a sculpture in his garden at Portrack House in Dumfries; and a Goldsworthy egg-shaped sculpture at Penpont, also in Dumfries. Main image: Robert Perry
Renowned landscape artist Charles Jencks and sculptor Andy Goldsworthy are part of a team that will transform a patch of farmland near Gretna into a new gateway to the country.
The spectacular project will be created north of the River Sark next to the M74, where the ten million motorists who cross the Border every year are often unaware they have changed countries, with only motorway signs to flag up the transition.
Of the 60 per cent of visitors who enter Scotland by road, 84 per cent go through Gretna, but one study found that many were unsure whether they had reached the country until they got to Moffat.
The team of architects and artists will spend the new few months finalising the design while money is raised to compete the ambitious plan.
Envisioned as an internationally significant design on a par with Antony Gormley's Angel of the North, on the A1 near Newcastle, the installation's bold remit is to embody the identity of the Scottish nation.
Following private consultations with historians, cultural figures, politicians and communities at a series of seminars and workshops, it will be known as the "Gretna Landmark – The Power of Scotland" and built on the opposite side of the motorway to the Gretna retail village.
It is described as an "iconic contemporary landmark and sculpture installation" that will create a "meaningful and theatrical experience as people enter Scotland".
Jencks – who designed the Landform landscape art outside the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh – will be the project's creative director. He admitted there was a "frightening" aspect to the commission, given it represents the most significant change to the Border since the Treaty of York was signed in 1237.
Goldsworthy, who lives in Dumfriesshire and has completed commissions across the world in his distinctive style, has been commissioned to design a striking sculpture that will exemplify the boundary long contested by the two nations, known as the "Debatable Lands".
The project is also inviting ideas for a separate eyecatching sculpture, called "The Great Unknown", that will overlook the busy motorway. Another part of the plan is to make more of a feature of the River Sark. It runs along the Border from the Solway Firth, but is largely obscured by bushes.
Jencks said: "When you close your eyes and think of Scotland, you think of heroic mountains and water. Our landscape has to signify the importance of geology, as Scottish geology is the most extraordinary in Europe."
Managers hope the project will be completed within 18 months. A website, www.gretnalandmark.com, goes live this week, featuring interviews with the main players. Jencks and Goldsworthy aim to display their completed designs early next year at Gretna, Holyrood and in Brussels. The landmark itself is scheduled for completion by 2012.
The project was initiated by the Dumfries & Galloway Arts Association (DGAA), with supporters including local authorities either side of the Border and the Duke of Buccleuch, who owns large estates in the area.
Jencks, describing the initiative as the "most challenging commission" of his career, says he is aware that no matter what form the final design takes, detractors will be lying in wait.
"You're never going to please everybody all the time," he said. "Whatever you come up with, the more iconic it is – and it has to be iconic – the more it'll be a target for people who don't like what it's saying. Every single icon that's good generates an iconoclast that wants to tear it down. I accept all that."
Dr Jan Hogarth, the DGAA's public art manager, said: "It's taken a long time to get to this stage, but we're absolutely delighted to get Charles and Andy on board."
Goldsworthy said: "When you walk the (Border] line you wouldn't know it was there unless you had a map. That is a very interesting subject for an artist to deal with."
Ted Cowan, professor of Scottish history at the University of Glasgow, said the Gretna Landmark would help restore a sense of pride to the south-west of Scotland.
He said: "This seems to be an area that has lost belief in itself, and one of the reasons for that is that it has a very imperfect understanding of its heritage. People are very poorly informed about the history of the area."
Alasdair Houston, a local landowner who has made the ground available for the landmark, said: "I passionately believe in what this sort of project could mean – it's the entry point to Scotland."
A 130,000 investment in the design stages has come from Dumfries and Galloway Council, Scottish Enterprise Dumfries and Galloway, and the Nuclear Decommissioning Fund. A trust with charitable status has been formed to seek the remaining funding.
The Angel of the North, which was completed in 1998, cost 800,000,
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