George King Architects have completed the Sousse and Bardo Memorial, a monument dedicated to the 31 British nationals who lost their lives and all those affected by the two terrorist attacks in Tunisia in 2015. The project was commissioned by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and sits within Birmingham’s Grade II listed Cannon Hill Park. The memorial was opened in March by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, during an unveiling ceremony attended by around 300 guests.
The design was inspired by the fluid geometry of flowing water, frozen in place, as if time has stood still at the moment of the attacks. At the centre of the memorial is a sculpture titled ‘Infinite Wave’’ which recreates a single wave formed from 31 individual streams, one for each British national who lost their lives in the attacks. Each stream is formed from a graceful twisting and turning stainless steel tube. This material has been chosen for its reflective qualities which adds to the water like appearance of the form, creating a dynamic sculpture that reflects the trees, sunlight and natural landscape surrounding it.
What at first appears to be 31 individual threads are all in fact part of a single much longer continuous stream, eventually looping back in on itself and beginning again. The form of the overall wave has been carefully designed to be appreciated from many angles. In plan it is a pure circular form, a symbol of continuity. When approached from the front the sculpture forms a simple arch which welcomes visitors inside. When viewed diagonally the form shifts to create the mathematical symbol of infinity, ∞. As visitors move further around to view the sculpture from the side the form shifts again to create a pair of wings, a symbol of peace and hope. The names of the 31 people who died have been engraved onto each tube. Placed within the tubes are metal capsules containing written messages from families to their loved ones.
The landscape surrounding the sculpture continues the theme of water. It is conceived as a series of granite ripples that flow in concentric circles from the centre of the sculpture. The ripples represent the impact that the events in 2015 had beyond those that lost their lives. They represent the survivors, the families of the victims, the local communities, the national heartache and the global loss. The ripples continue beyond the memorial in the form of planted borders containing wildflowers and bulbs specifically chosen to bloom each year to coincide with the anniversary of the attacks.
George King, Principal of George King Architects said:
We are incredibly honoured to have been chosen to create this memorial to remember all those affected by the tragic events that took place in Tunisia in 2015.Throughout the design and construction process we have been acutely aware of the significance that this memorial has for the families who have lost loved ones, the survivors and the wider community. We put them and their experiences very much at the heart of the design concept.
Together with our team of expert consultants, fabricators and contractors we have focused on translating our unique design into reality with a focus on craftsmanship, quality and fine detailing in order to create a meaningful place of reflection and contemplation within the beautiful setting of Cannon Hill Park.
The sculpture, Infinite Wave, was made in Darwen, Lancashire by specialist architectural metalwork fabricator m-tec. m-tec’sSenior Design Engineer, Jeff Kinsley describes the process:
The Sculpture was manufactured in three sections – two end sections that were fabricated and polished as a complete assembly and a middle section that was a series of individual polished tubes that connected the ends – we used this method due to the physical size of the sculpture and the practicalities of delivery and installation.
It was a complex design due to the fact that there was not two tubes identical to each other. The Sculpture gives the general impression that it is symmetrical but due to the fact that all the tubes have to cross over each other in order to obtain one continuous tube from start to finish meant that each tube was unique.
There were over 250 individual pipes and 496 individual bends – each bend rolled and formed on two different axis, it was a challenge not only forming these but also identifying all the individual bends and ensuring they were positioned in the correct place.
The other challenges included maintaining the structural integrity of the fabrication, the need to transport and install the sections without causing any damage to the sculpture because of the irregular shape of each section, the positioning on site so that the middle sections fitted correctly and also the polishing of the sculpture both in the workshop and on site to a mirror finish.
George King Architect’s design was chosen by an independent panelfollowing an open competition and in consultation with family members of those affected by the two attacks.