London Festival of Architecture announces Modern Maypole design competition


The London Festival of Architecture (LFA) in partnership with The Northbank BID today announces a design competition for a “Modern Maypole”, to stand outside St Mary Le Strand in central London during the London Festival of Architecture in June 2018. A prestigious jury will judge the competition, including Julia Barfield, architect of the London Eye and i-360 in Brighton, and Carole Boyd who plays Ambridge’s own maypole enthu Lynda Snell in The Archers.

Architects, artists, designers and engineers are invited to submit design proposals for the Modern Maypole, reimagining what a maypole might be in 2018. In looking back to London’s built tradition, the competition aims to create a temporary landmark for the 2018 London Festival of Architecture that can act as a focal point for public activities, and encourages participants to explore contemporary expressions of communal identity and shared experience.

Historically, a maypole is a tall wooden pole erected for folk celebrations, with origins in paganism and Medieval culture. The Modern Maypole will stand on the site of the Strand maypole: the largest maypole in London which was constructed after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 and was a prominent London landmark until it fell in a storm in 1672. With help from Sir Isaac Newton it was later used as a mount for a telescope in Wanstead until it broke in 1728. Contemporary prints show the Strand maypole standing tall among the city’s spires, dwarfing nearby buildings and reminding us how radically London’s skyline has changed in the intervening period.

While reflecting on changes in London’s built environment, the competition is also an opportunity to reconsider how buildings and structures in the city could once again form a focus for shared activity and identity, and how a maypole – so simple and yet so prominent in 17th century London – will have to compete with a radically altered skyline and more hectic environment.


The Modern Maypole competition will be judged by a panel including:

Julia Barfield (managing director, Marks Barfield Architects)

Carole Boyd (actress, The Archers)

Andy Downey (director, Elliot Wood Partnership)

Ruth Duston (chief executive, The Northbank BID)

John Goodall (heritage expert and architecture editor, Country Life)

Jonathan Morrison (architecture correspondent, The Times)

Jonathan Reekie (director, Somerset House Trust)

Tamsie Thomson (director, London Festival of Architecture)


The announcement of the Modern Maypole competition comes at the end of the London Festival of Architecture 2017, which this year has been the biggest ever event and has further cemented the LFA’s status as Europe’s largest annual architecture event with over 600 public events taking place across the capital.


Tamsie Thomson, director of the London Festival of Architecture, said:

“The London Festival of Architecture is all about encouraging architects and the public to look at London in new and interesting ways, and exploring how we can make London a better place. The Modern Maypole is a great opportunity to look afresh at a prominent London location while reinventing a lost London tradition. We have an excellent track record of organising successful design competitions – such as this year’s phenomenally successful Dulwich Pavilion – and I’m looking forward to seeing how participants in the Modern Maypole competition rise to our challenge.”


Fellow judge Carole Boyd said:

“Organising a giant maypole in the middle of The Strand would be beyond even Lynda Snell’s wildest imaginings, so I’m delighted to have been asked to help judge this exciting competition. I’m looking forward to seeing what our finest architectural, artistic, design and engineering talent can come up with.”


Ruth Duston, chief executive of The Northbank BID said:

“This is a chance for all of us to celebrate the Northbank’s past by bringing its history of architectural and design innovation to life. This project will also highlight the upcoming improvements to Aldwych through traffic calming and opening up of public spaces, significantly benefitting the area’s cultural importance.”


More information for on the Modern Maypole competition is included in a briefing document – available for participants here.

The closing date for first stage submissions (expressions of interest) is 13 September 2017.





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