A Modern Maypole

Location: London
Year completed: Unbuilt
Client: The Northbank BID, London Festival of Architecture
Architect: Scale Rule
Wider team: Scale Rule

To be shortlisted for the London Festival of Architecture’s Modern Maypole competition was quite an honour for the team. The competition was, a challenge to design and construct a maypole on the Northbank in front of St Mary Le Strand Church on the Aldwych, in the shadow of Somerset House. The brief looked to bring the community together around a new maypole on the site of a number of former enormous maypoles from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Our entry saw the Modern Maypole Project as an opportunity to bring local student groups together in a shared endeavour to transform an historic, yet sometimes inaccessible part of their city. We proposed a maypole assembled of many individual components – wooden discs stacked to form a ringed patchwork tower – each component decorated by a primary school from within ten miles of St Mary le Strand, and added to the maypole construction by the students themselves through a lifting ceremony.

The maypole was designed to grow over time, from the base up. The process started with a decorative top piece, held down to a base plinth by tensioned cable. As each school arrived with their disc, the cables would be slackened, the structure jacked up, and the new disc inserted in the at the base of the pole. As schools contributed their discs the maypole would continue to stretch upwards towards its full height. This will be reached when 130 discs have been stacked, each disc representing one foot of the height of the former 17th Century maypole which once stood on the same site. The final maypole would be a multifaceted post-tensioned wooden masonry structure, bearing the decorative marks of the participating schools, and visibly demonstrating the community assembly process through rings, plinth and cables.

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