The words “oppression, subjugation and injustice” would probably not be the first that come to mind on viewing the striking sculptural design shown above, a lofty project that had been initially planned for the grounds at Flint Castle, a medieval fortress located along the River Dee in Wales. But it seems the specter of history — and some resulting controversy — have gotten in the way.
Built by the English King Edward I during his reign in the 13th Century, Flint Castle was one of a number of bastions erected by the monarch in his campaign to conquer Wales. The castle, and others in the region, came to form a so-called “Iron Ring” to cut off resistance from the Welsh populace. Announced earlier this month, the proposed design for the new sculpture — which would measure nearly a 100 feet in diameter and rise 23 feet high — is perhaps not-so-artfully also called “Iron Ring.”
Emotions appear to be as raw today as they were nearly 800 years ago. “It seems deeply offensive to me to propose this ring commemorating the violent oppression of the Welsh people by a barbaric English king and his oppression of their culture and history,” wrote one signer among thousands of a petition to halt the project. “I am astonished it is being proposed.”
For its part, the principals at the British firm of George King Architects — whose design for the installation was selected by a panel of experts after a nationwide competition inviting creative suggestions to celebrate Wales’ “Year of Legends” — say they simply envisioned “a giant rusted crown representing the relationship between the medieval monarchies of Europe and the castles they built.”
As it stands, plans have currently been halted as the Welsh government reviews the concerns of the many opposed to the construction of the polemical “Ring.” The question is: will art — or history — win?