Jolyon Brewis: To create a landmark, you need passion and persistence

From a talk by the architect of the Eden Project, given at the Corn Exchange in Cambridge
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The Independent Online

Historically, landmark buildings were designed to impose themselves physically upon the surrounding landscape. They often embodied the civic, military or religious power of a community or nation - cathedrals, fortresses or palaces, public galleries or houses of parliament.

Historically, landmark buildings were designed to impose themselves physically upon the surrounding landscape. They often embodied the civic, military or religious power of a community or nation - cathedrals, fortresses or palaces, public galleries or houses of parliament.

The trend for regions or communities to request a landmark for its own sake is a relatively recent phenomenon, but now, whether it's a university hall of residence, a speculative office complex or an apartment block, it seems that everybody wants to be noticed. But how do you really create a money-spinning, tourist-attracting, worthwhile work of art?

An impressive physical presence is only one factor. It can be argued that contemporary landmarks will only have a lasting presence if people accept them as having a cultural, spiritual or social significance. Where large amounts of public money are spent, the objective should be to enrich people's lives.

If its aspirations are to be nationally, or internationally, recognised, then the stakes are raised. The Eden Project has brought significant economic benefits to Cornwall, regenerating one of the poorest regions of the country; it is important to remember, however, that in its early stages, the project was a great gamble. It required boundless energy and persistence, and substantial capital expenditure. There are many examples of projects with similar ambition where the initial optimism has not been followed by lasting success.

To be a success, a landmark requires a strong concept, passionate champions to stick with it during years of development and funders who have the foresight to appreciate the benefits that such a project can bring, locally and nationally. Most of all, it will need to capture the imagination for years to come.

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