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Elephant and Castle

Southwark Memorial

Memorial Artwork Commission - a memorial for the 21st Century

In 2016 we appointed the Contemporary Art Society and formed a steering group to commission a new contemporary public artwork. As well as being a symbolic piece of contemporary art, it will serve as a 21st Century memorial to war and conflict.

Located within the new Walworth Square and  established as part of the Lendlease Elephant Park development, the memorial will be used for reflection, commemoration and remembrance. It will be a marker in time and a place to inspire us to look forward as we remember the past.

The commissioning panel includes Southwark Council, Lendlease, The Imperial War Museum and the Royal British Legion as well as other representatives from the Artists Studios Company, local community centre Inspire and an independent curatorial consultant. The piece has been installed during the construction of Walworth Square in 2018.


We wanted the artwork to connect with a wide range of people who make our local communities. Focus workshops with independent curator Vivienne Reiss and the artist Albert Potrony and web based consultation provided the selected artist, Kenny Hunter, with responses about what a memorial can be today and in the future. The results of this work and research can be viewed in the consultation report (PDF, 6.5mb)


Community Engagement

Summer 2016

Artist appointment

Autumn 2016

Artist design development

Winter 2017

Detailed design and approvals

Spring 2017

Fundraising campaign

Spring 2017

Artwork fabrication

Winter 2017

Artwork installation

Autumn 2018

The work

Kenny Hunter 2018 - words by Hamish Henderson from ‘Elegies for the Dead in Cyrenaica’

The themes of war and conflict as evidenced in historical memorials were researched and explored in depth to support the development of this proposal drawing on modern and pre-modern examples from Ancient Greece to Henry Moore and from Rodin’s Burgher’s of Calais to Maya Lin’s Vietnam Wall. The research influenced the decision to favour empathy over reverence and on a formal level make the overall composition horizontal as opposed to vertical, positively encouraging the possibility of physical interaction and connection to the subject. Throughout the design phase Hunter has worked closely with Gillespies Landscape architects to ensure that the memorial and the planting around it are considered as interdependent elements, building on the existing network of retained mature trees.

The Southwark Memorial is a contemporary public artwork that serves the symbolic purpose of a memorial to war and conflict. The sculpture is structured around three coexisting dualities. The first sets in opposition the trauma of war and the idealism of childhood as expressed through a cast of a fallen tree and a life size sculpture of a youth. The second is between this bronze tree and the living trees that surround it. One is inert while the others continue to grow and change. Finally, the work is in a sense traditional without being conventional, whilst a figurative sculpture cast in bronze the work presents an expansive understanding of commemoration, celebrating not a fallen soldier but an anonymous youth, an everyday person you might pass in the street.

The Southwark Memorial breaks not only with the contemporary taboo of the monumental sculpture but also with the tradition of the war memorial. Hunter hopes it can become an unsentimental image that is able to express human endurance and the persistence to keep going in difficult and traumatic circumstances.

Page last updated: 11 April 2024


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