The vision to create a world class landmark, designed by artists Cecil Balmond and Charles Jencks, on the border between Scotland and England has come one step closer as Dumfries & Galloway Council have now approved the project. For more than 10 years the local community, the regions public art team along with landowner and project champion Alasdair Houston, have had the vision for an internationally important piece of public art at the border which would send a positive message about the area. Over the last seven years The Gretna Landmark Project has involved Scottish academics, cultural thinkers and the local community in a series of seminars and workshops which culminated in the appointment of local resident and world renowned landscape architect Charles Jencks as our Project’s Creative Director. And in 2011 we announced The Great Unknown – a competition to design a significant landmark for Gretna. Cecil Balmond’s “Star of Caledonia” was the winning concept design which has been developed over the last year in collaboration with creative director, Charles Jencks. The Balmond/Jencks design is now completed and was submitted for planning permission in November 2012.
Creative director and international land artist, Charles Jencks described the experience of entering Scotlands main and most southern gateway, “Crossing the border to Scotland, across the River Sark, is now a passage obscured under a bridge by cars travelling at speed. Instead of marking this with motorway signs we are using a landform and sculpture that pulls together the adjacent site, the distant hills and the Solway.
“Nestled into the curving mound and springing from it is Cecil Balmond’s whirling creation. In one sense it is a scintillating piece of calligraphy seen against the sky which will signify various meanings as you approach it.”
The collaborative design combines artistic vision and engineering to produce a landmark that is rooted in Scotland’s scientific contribution to the world.
“Star of Caledonia” received widespread support from the council’s planning committee with no public objections and a very positive report which emphasized the tourism and regeneration benefits of the project to local business and the wider region.
The Star of Caledonia has been developed by the Gretna community, with attention paid to the rich history and scientific innovation that has come from the area. Artist/designers’ Cecil Balmond and Charles Jencks based their concept on the electro-magnetic theory of James Clerk Maxwell and tradition of innovation and invention in Scotland. Cecil Balmond explains:
Council Convenor Coucillor Patsy Gilroy said: ‘Our Star of Caledonia will put Dumfries and Galloway on the international map promoting it as a dynamic and creative destination and will be a flagship for regeneration.”
This project is a vital part of Dumfries & Galloway’s regeneration strategy, which aims to increase visitor numbers and extend the tourist season with a focus on the area as a ‘natural place to visit’.
The Scottish Government’s Visitor Strategy aims to be Europe’s most sustainable tourist destination whilst increasing visitor numbers by 50% by 2015.
“The star is magical and looks like the galaxy.”
Feedback from a Gretna school pupil during community consultation
The project will help promote Gretna, on the border between England and Scotland, and Dumfries & Galloway as a key destination which is home to one of the world’s few Dark Sky Parks and world class environmental art including Andy Goldsworthy’s Striding Arches in Upper Nithsdale.
Scottish Government MSP for the south of Scotland, Joan McAlpine said:“It’s three-dimensional and futuristic, designed to shape-shift as cars whoosh past.
The star will glimmer at night and is inspired by Scotland’s tradition of innovation. In particular, it pays tribute to James Clerk Maxwell, the Scottish scientist whose work paved the way for Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.
The Star of Caledonia team still need to raise more money to make it happen. It’s a glittering prize worth fighting for.”
It is the ambition of the Gretna Landmark Trust to secure the remaining funding to enable the construction of the Star of Caledonia throughout 2013 / 2014 so it will be welcoming visitors to the country for Homecoming Scotland 2014.
The Gretna Landmark Trust is currently in dialogue with a range of potential investors to secure the final investment required of £3.8 million. As a statement of confidence Creative Scotland committed the highest amount possible of £1million within their capitals investment programme in November 2012.