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Gulbenkian Museum of theYear


Huw WilliamsScotland reporter Huw Williams.
The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, in Edinburgh, has just been named "Museum of the Year". The Gallery won the prestigious Gulbenkian Prize for an extraordinary landscape project on its front lawn. Today's Scotland reporter Huw Williams explains:

Hear what visitors to Landform think, plus Phillip Long, the gallery's curator interviewed on the programme (12 May, 2004).
Landform in Edinburgh

Landform Ueda in Edinburgh.

National Galleries of Scotland.

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Landform Ueda

Some say the design looks like a French curve. Photo by Glyn Satterly.
Is it a sculpture? Is it a water feature? Is it a playground?

Well, yes. It's all those things, and more.

Officially, it's called Landform Ueda, and the Gallery describes it as "a stepped, serpentine-shaped mound reflected in three crescent-shaped pools of water".

When I went to chat to visitors they described it as looking like a seashell, or maybe ripples of water. Someone said it looked as though a giant had taken a huge ice cream scoop, and dug up the lawn. One man told me "it's like a French Curve, that you'd use in technical drawing". Another visitor said it reminded her of early Celtic hill forts.

Young Simon loves it. He was charging around in his grey and red school uniform, running up and down the slopes. "I wonder who made it?", he asked. "They must have been very clever."

It was Dumfriesshire based architectural historian Charles Jencks. He says when he designed it, he "pictured a contemporary equivalent of Seurat's La Grande Jatte - everything going on at once, amidst sun, water and city life. You could eat lunch, perhaps have a drink, chase kites ".

And that vision obviously appealed to the panel which judges the Gulbenkian Prize. They've just handed over a cheque for a hundred thousand pounds, and named the Gallery their Museum of the Year.

The Chairman of the judges, Loyd Grossman, said: "Landform is an inspirational, beautiful project". It will "completely transform the experience visitors have at an already outstanding museum", he added. And it is so powerful the experience of seeing, and/ or walking and running over the piece could even "change people's ideas about what a museum does and can do".

The Gallery's Curator, Philip Long, says he doesn't understand all the science behind the design - which is said to reflect chaos theory, and weather systems - but he views it as a "microcosm of the Scottish landscape". The Landform has been at the centre of the transformation of the Gallery's grounds, he says. And he's hoping the prize money will help them complete that work, but this time with a new sculpture garden for smaller scale works.

Scotland's Culture Minister, Frank McAveety, has already congratulated the Gallery. He said he was "delighted" it had won, and he described Landform as "a magical back-drop to many of the Gallery's activities".

Three other finalists were shortlisted for the prize - the Museum of Antiquities, University of Newcastle upon Tyne for its Reticulum project, Pembrokeshire Museums Service for Varda, a travelling exhibition exploring Romany history and culture and Norton Priory Museum and Gardens, Runcorn, Cheshire, for its Positive Partnerships programme.

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