News

The RNLI Memorial, Poole, Dorset

September 30 2009 — by Jesse Lilley
Completions
The RNLI Heritage Trust has unveiled a memorial sculpture commemorating the lives of 438 lifeboat volunteers lost since the RNLI was first established in 1824. The steel artwork by sculptor Sam Holland features lighting by Speirs + Major and depicts a figure in a boat rescuing a casualty from the water.
Speirs + Major / A sketch of the RNLI Memorial by night
Speirs + Major / A sketch of the RNLI Memorial by night
The RNLI Memorial statue by sculptor Sam Holland
The RNLI Memorial statue by sculptor Sam Holland
Speirs + Major / The RNLI Memorial by night
Speirs + Major / The RNLI Memorial by night
The RNLI Memorial statue by day
The RNLI Memorial statue by day
Speirs + Major / The RNLI Memorial by night
Speirs + Major / The RNLI Memorial by night
Satu Streatfield from Speirs + Major worked closely with the artist throughout the process to achieve an integrated approach to the lighting. The idea was to mimic the transmutation of steel into gold by using a warm light source.

“When I met with the artist Sam Holland, her main wish was that the statue be lit by warm light, a notion we absolutely shared,” says Satu. “She'd shone a tungsten source at another of her steel sculptures and was excited to see the steel ribbons turn gold in the light. We all felt that this effect should be exploited. While the metal appears quite cold during the day, the lighting seems to turn the steel figure into gold by night.”

The result is a sensitive atmosphere designed for the contemplation of those who have lost their lives while saving others. "It would have been easy to overstate the inherent drama of the sculpture by exaggerating the sea-themed elements, but the result would have been crude and caricatured."

An important element of the piece are the names of the people that lost their lives, engraved into steel ribbons on the back of the plinth. These are lit softly with a gentle blue wash. Because the steel surface is highly polished, strong bands of light are reflected in the steel – which actually help the viewer read the name. As the viewer circles the memorial, the reflections appear to move around the sculpture highlighting each name one by one.