London Festival of Architecture Maypole

+ Project Description

ScottWhitbyStudio and engineers WhitbyWood have drawn up plans for a ‘Modern Maypole’ created as a complex tower of 32 golden maypoles – each representing a London borough. After the Festival, the poles will be donated to schools and community organisations across the capital, forming a legacy as these totemic markers themselves become new civic beacons in London for years to come.

Designed by father and son duo, architect Alex Scott-Whitby and engineer Mark Whitby, the ‘Modern Maypole’ structure embodies a hybrid of engineering ingenuity and architectural design. Each pole held in place by ‘tensegrity’, a term coined in the 1960s by Kenneth Snelson and Buckminster Fuller, whereby the structure stands thanks to the compressive strengths of the anodized aluminium poles and the tensile strengths of coloured steel wires acting in unison. The design team also played with London’s built tradition and delved into London’s rich architectural history, finding inspiration in the ‘Skylon’ a temporary structure built during the Festival of Britain, and the form of the neighbouring church of St Mary-le-Strand, which itself is a scaled down version of the entrance towers at St Paul’s Cathedral.

The maypole will stand outside the church of St Mary-le-Strand: the site of London’s largest and long-lost maypole, which was constructed after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 and towered over the 17th century city. The ‘Modern Maypole’, which draws upon London’s built history and folk tradition, will stand in a transformed cityscape as a reminder of how radically London’s skyline, character and identity have changed over the centuries. In keeping with the London Festival of Architecture’s ‘identity’ theme for 2018, the project will be a temporary landmark that also explores shifting ideas of communal identity and shared experience.

The international design contest was launched in June 2017 and was open to architects, artists, designers and engineers. ScottWhitbySTUDIO and WhitbyWood saw off competition from a field of 32 entries to win the commission. Entries were judged by an expert jury comprising Tamsie Thomson (director, London Festival of Architecture), Julia Barfield (managing director, Marks Barfield Architects), Carole Boyd (actor playing Lynda Snell in The Archers) Jonathan Reekie (director, Somerset House Trust), Andy Downey (director, Elliot Wood Partnership), John Goodall (architecture editor, Country Life), Jonathan Morrison (architecture correspondent, The Times) and Megan Dixon (marketing and communications, The Northbank BID).

Status: Competition Winner

Location: The Strand, London

Client: London Festival of Architecture


Engineer - WhitbyWood