Seafarers memorial - winning proposal

    The International Maritime Organization has announced that renowned British sculptor, Michael Sandle has been chosen to create a memorial to the world’s seafarers at the Organization’s riverside headquarters on the Albert Embankment in London. He has been chosen to execute the sculpture based on the proposed design submitted – which is very clearly based on a cargo ship. Of his design Michael Sandle writes, "I have chosen a ship because it signals immediately and unmistakably what the Organization is about".

    The sculpture will be a reminder of the pivotal role seafaring plays in world trade and development and will also serve as a memorial to all seafarers who have been lost at sea. Some 95% of cargo is moved by sea so the importance of seafarers cannot be overstated. The unveiling of the completed work is scheduled for World Maritime Day 2001.

    IMO Secretary–General Mr. William O’Neil said it had been thought for some time that the IMO Headquarters, with its prominent position opposite the Houses of Parliament, was an excellent site for such a long overdue and unique monument. "In our discussions it was decided early on that the sculpture chosen should be figurative in nature and visually striking. The reason for this is that every delegate from each of the 158 Member States of IMO, and every visitor to the building, should be immediately aware of the sculpture’s significance," he said.

    Of the winning sculpture he went on to say, "The judging panel feel that Michael Sandle’s interpretation of the brief fulfils our criteria, we are confident that it will provide both an appropriate and lasting Memorial to all Seafarers".The memorial project is being financed from a Trust Fund established two years ago to mark IMO’s 50th anniversary. Other projects earmarked for the fund include the establishment of an additional teaching chair at the World Maritime University in Sweden and fellowships for the training of seafarers.

    A key contributor to the fund is the International Transport Workers’ Federation whose General Secretary, David Cockroft, said: "We welcome this memorial and hope it will remind people of the hazards faced daily by the world’s seafarers".


More on the Seafarers Memorial


   " My proposal for a sculpture for the International Maritime Organisation’s Headquarters is very clearly based on a cargo ship. I have chosen a ship because it signals immediately and unmistakably what the organisation is about. Only a truly monumental sculpture would work because the frontage of the IMO building is very large and the space allocated for a sculpture is a particularly difficult one to articulate. Anything else would simply be swallowed up and become invisible.

    My proposal is intended to work with the façade of the building and enhance its architectural features. I envisage the sculpture to be realised in cupro-nickel alloy that will retain a light silver-gold colour resistant to corrosion and which will work well with the anodised aluminium cladding of the building.

    The sculpture would be big enough to provide a proper focus to the building. I have attempted to transform a ship into a cathedral. Visitors looking up at it at close range would experience resonances similar to being in one; it is not for nothing that the longitudinal axis of a cathedral is called the Nave.

    It is important that the bow of the ship supporting the figure, which is the main feature visible to roadside viewers, should project outside the façade line so as to provide sight-lines to anyone approaching the building obliquely. Anything simply placed in the bay will not be visible until practically stumbled over.

    Placing the top of the bow outside the limits of the façade line also enables daylight to be channelled downwards. The large piercings immediately behind the bows are also there to let in daylight. This sculpture has however been expressly designed to look spectacular when floodlit at night.

    This sculpture, based on the bow of a classic cargo ship complete with Admiralty-type anchors would, I believe, remain timeless in spite of referring to a pre-containerisation age of shipping. The crew member, the ‘seafarer’ standing on the prow, about to throw a line, is dressed as a contemporary marine operative because there are ships like this still in service."

    MICHAEL SANDLE was born in Weymouth in 1936. He studied at Douglas School of Art and Technology, Isle of Man (1951-54), and then after two years in the Royal Artillery he studied printmaking at the Slade School of Fine Art. Sandle spent the 1960s teaching in leading British Art Schools, before moving to Canada in 1970. He spent a year as Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Calgary and then a year teaching at the University of British Columbia. In 1973 Sandle moved to Germany, teaching in Pforzheim and then as a guest of the DAAD Artists’ Programme in Berlin (1974-5). Between 1980 and 1999 he was Professor of Sculpture at the Akademie der Bildenen Künste, Karlsruhe. Michael Sandle has exhibited widely, including a 1988 retrospective at the Whitechapel Art Gallery and an exhibition at the Tate Gallery Liverpool in 1995. He has undertaken many significant commissions, including the Memorial for the Victims of a Helicopter Disaster in 1985 in Mannheim and the Malta Siege Bell Memorial 1989-93, a vast commission that included a major figurative sculpture, a 12-tonne siege bell and its architectural housing. He was a Royal Academician 1989-1998 and he has been a Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors since 1994. Sandle lives and works in Devon.