Charles Jencks' Landform Wins £100,000 Gulbenkian Museum Prize

by Jon Pratty, Editor, 24 Hour Museum | 12 May 2004
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Shows a photograph of a line of people standing on a stage.

Photo: Richard Calvocoressi, Charles Jencks, Lady Cobham, Loyd Grossman. © 24 Hour Museum.

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art has won the 2004 Gulbenkian Prize for Museum of the Year for Charles Jencks' dramatic and radical landscaping project, Landform.

The Gulbenkian judges were captivated by Landform, describing it as a transforming experience, a magnet that attracts people into the museums and a unique intervention in the museum and gallery landscape.

The decision was announced at a gala evening at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, introduced by Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell.

Shows a photograph of Landform. It comprises a stepped, serpentine-shaped mound reflected in three crescent-shaped pools of water.

Photo: Landform by Charles Jencks. Courtesy of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh.

Landform, a serpentine, stepped mound, with three crescent shaped pools covering three acres, was commissioned by the Gallery in 1999 when it decided to redevelop its front lawn, a former school playing field.

It turned to American-born architectural historian Charles Jencks, whose design for Landform reflects the Edinburgh landscape and was inspired by chaos theory and weather systems. Landform took two years to build at a cost of £380,000.

“This is a great day,” said Richard Calvocoressi, Director of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. “It gives us an enormous boost. The prize enables you to do something new, to realise a dream.” Thanking the Gulbenkian Foundation, he went on: “Landform - It's landscape, it's art, it's much else besides.”

shows a photo of Charles Jencks, who designed Landform

Photo: Charles Jencks. © 24 Hour Museum.

Since its completion, Landform has become one of Edinburgh's most visited attractions, drawing record numbers into the Galleries. “I pictured,” says Charles Jencks, “a contemporary equivalent of Seurat's La Grande Jatte - everything going on at once, amidst sun, water and city life.”

“You could eat lunch, perhaps have a drink, chase kites ...” The transformation of the grounds has proved to be so popular that one area of turf has recently been replaced because it had been worn out by so many people walking on it.

shows a photo of Tessa Jowell, Culture Secretary, introducing the awards.

Photo: Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell set the scene before the award was announced. © 24 Hour Museum.

“Landform is an inspirational, beautiful project which will completely transform the experience visitors have at an already outstanding gallery. Landform has the potential to actually change people's ideas about what a museum does and can do,” said Loyd Grossman, Chairman of the Gulbenkian judges, who made the winning announcement at a ceremony at the Royal Academy at Burlington Gardens.

“It's a work of art,” said Charles Jencks, speaking to the 24 Hour Museum at the event. “It's to do with physical relationships, to do with mother Earth, the shadows are powerful, there's a pre-historic element to it. It's one small step for land art, a large step for me! ”

“The day after it opened, I looked out of the window at the gallery and saw four young men chasing each other round the garden having a ball. I saw young lovers, coming in, doing what young lovers do. I realised it was as good as I could have hoped.”

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art receives a cheque for £100,000 and an enamelled silver bowl designed by award-winning metalwork artist, Vladimir Böhm.

shows a photo of Lady Cobham, chair of the museum prize.

Photo: Lady Cobham praised the ‘positive and productive’ relationship between prize organisers and the 24 Hour Museum over the last few months. © 24 Hour Museum.

Lady Cobham, chair of the museum prize, thanked MLA (Museums Libraries and Archives Council) for their support, and mentioned that the 2005 prize will seek to encourage the hub museums, part of MLA's Renaissance in the Regions strategy.

The three other finalists were the Museum of Antiquities, University of Newcastle upon Tyne for its Reticulum project; Pembrokeshire Museums Service for Varda, a travelling exhibition of Romany history and culture, and Norton Priory Museum and Gardens, Runcorn, Cheshire, for its Positive Partnerships programme.

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