If all goes to plan, Sheffield will reveal its official Covid memorial in the spring.
The sculpture will sit within the planted garden at Balm Green Gardens, on Barker’s Pool, and provide a focal point to the space for people to pay their respects and place tributes and memories and be a symbol that people from all cultures can understand and relate to and be accessible to everyone.
The existing Balm Green Gardens will be upgraded alongside this project, including creating better accessibility for anyone with a disability.
The winning commission, chosen out of 14 entries, is by George King, an architect and sculptor, of George King Architects, who submitted a positive and confident application. He will use stainless steel to create a design based on a willow tree and has already begun work on creating the sculpture.
The unique memorial will be a meaningful, long-lasting, and creative tribute to those who have lost their lives, those who have worked above and beyond to keep people as safe as possible and those who have been affected by Covid.
“When we thought about Covid and how the pandemic affected so many people, the willow tree idea was powerful to us,” says George.
“A willow has a strong trunk which symbolises how people worked together to create the strength that was needed at such a difficult time. It is also a flexible and resilient tree, whilst also being delicate.
“When a storm hits, the tree bends with it. Its long branches sweep all the way to the ground and when it rains the droplets fall all the way down the branches like tears to the ground.
“When you stand underneath a willow tree you feel embraced and protected.”
The memorial will be constructed using cast or fabricated metal to reflect the city’s heritage and will include other durable materials. Its design will allow people to connect with it either by reading the stories and messages it holds or by attaching temporary messages or ribbons.
George King is an award winning chartered architect who has worked on projects in Europe, US, Australia, the Middle East, and Russia.
Prior to forming GKA, George was senior architect at Zaha Hadid and has exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, Detroit Design Festival, London Festival of Architecture and Sculpture by Sea where his design, House of Mirrors, won the Andrea Stretton Memorial Invitation.
George has taught extensively, both at Undergraduate and Master’s level, leading programs at Lund University in Sweden, The Bartlett School of Architecture in London and Monash University in Australia. He currently runs an undergraduate studio at The University of Greenwich.
Balm Green Gardens, also known as Barker’s Pool Garden and Fountain Square, is 400 square yards in size, and would never have been created had it not been for the opening of the City Hall in 1932.
The land was owned by the adjacent Grand Hotel, the plot used as a carpark enclosed with advertising hoardings. But J.G. Graves, that famous city benefactor, thought it was an “eyesore”, obstructing the view of the splendid new City Hall from the Town Hall and the top of Fargate.
His solution was to negotiate the purchase of the land from the hotel and gift it to Sheffield.
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