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Thiepval Monument- opinions


Mark A
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I got into a friendly agrument last night with someone in the pub who had just visited the Thiepval Monument and said of it: "I've never seen such an ugly memorial".

It got me thinking, I wonder what the rest of the pals think? Do you like it? Are you awed by it? Is it possible to "like it"? It always sends a reverential chill up my spine when I go and stand under it, but I'm not sure I could say I like it. It's vastness is hard to comprehend...

A recently screened BBC 4 documentary on Lutyens stated that it is his masterpiece and much admired by architects for it's arch and design- and marvelled at his mastery of 3d space.

Anyway- what do you think?

M

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I'm no architect so I can't comment from a professional point of view.

I will agree with you when you use terms such as 'awe' and 'reverence'; but to look at - it's monstrous.

Ughh

Garth

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It's not pretty but I like it, look to the left & To The Missing, to the right Of The Somme.

I do not like Vimy, it reminds me of Soviet monuments.

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There are several ways to look at structures... monuments, building, etc. Of course the names on the monumnent do cause awe and remembrance of the men and sacrafices made in the area. However from a purely structural perspective it reminds me of buildings I made playing with my legos as a child. Andy

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I think it is imposing, and I like the symmetry. Each arch is half the size of the one below it and at right angles. It cetainly dominates the landscape, and it is heartwrenching to think that those endless lists of names represent men who still lie out there undiscovered in the fields. It represents the sheer scale of the tragedy.

The most atmospheric time to visit it is in the predawn on July 1. I was there last year to hear nature's "Last Post" - a blackbird perched high up on the Memorial , singing loudly and heralding the birth of another day.

Paul, I differ from you over Vimy - I think it is beautifully designed and the most evocative memorial to a Nation's pride and loss that I have seen

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Superficially the monument appears quite simple but the use of arches and their relationship to one another, both vertical and horizontal, is actually quite complex. Its size and position are intended to dominate and aptly reflect the enormous loss life suffered on the Somme - a fitting tribute to those named on it.

All in all I like it – hence my avatar.

Mark

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The architecture is inspiring, I never fail to be awed by the never-ending lists of names disappearing upwards. But it is the bold statement that the monument makes that is important to me. It can be seen for some distance across the battlefield which has largely absorbed the ravages of the war - the monument itself will never be absorbed and will always send out its message of commemoration of the missing.

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Being able to see the monument from the Australian 1st Division Memorial at Pozieres was impressive. Even at distance, it is imposing.

Robert

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Guest Brummy

I must say I have always liked this memorial, it both impreses and pleases my eye. If it has a fault it is that it does sort of resemble one of those transformer toys, but Lutyens could hardly be blamed for this.

Brum

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Mark-

It is complex and really impressive when you look at how it's built in detail.

Sounds like a lot of are the same as me, people find it imposing and rather beyond the question of "liking it".

I also find it interesting that there is a lack of religious symbolism on it... like the War Stones in the cemeteries he designed that are neither empty tombs or altars...

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Evening all.

One of the things that i remember,as a kid,is seeing a copy of my Great-grandads Scroll.

At the top of the Scroll,was a picture of the Thiepval memorial.

In black and white,slightly smudged,it looked pretty impressive.

Up close,it is marvellous,and so simple,being made of brick,in the main.

An awesome place to visit,and the names are still being added.

Regards.

Simon.

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Imposing, moving, awe-inspiring, reverential - yes.

a thing of beauty no.

Stephen

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I'm not sure whether the date of the memorial makes it Art Deco, but the strong geometric lines remind me of it. I like it!

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Lots of people preferred it as it was before the bricks were replaced in the late 70s/early 80s. They couldn't afford to replace the original hand-made bricks which were sort of straw-coloured. The Memorial looked more like the colour of the surrounding fields and appeared quite different. Softer, if you know what I mean.

Tom

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To me Thiepval is incredible, I feel drawn to visit it whenever I am in the Somme. Somehow, however, it seems a little out of place, a little 'lost'.

I remember reading that it may have been originally designed in the arch form to span a major French road a la the Menin gate but this was rejected by the French Government.

Any truth in this I wonder?

I agree with the comments regarding Vimy but it seems to be a victim of it's own grandeur - is it true the sheer weight is causing problems with the foundations and the memorial is currently fenced off?

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It has a special place in my heart , so I find it is an inspiring structure.

It dominates the landscape and although aesthetically not pleasing, to me it encapsulates the Great War and Commemoration.

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I plan to visit Thiepval for the first time this coming October. From the still photos and and viewing the memorial on TV it looks very imposing with an elegant architecture and clean strong lines. Every time I see a picture of Thiepval it reminds me of the British Empire at the turn of the last century; solid, dominating and out front. Frankly, I think it's an appropriate British memorial.

I do not like Vimy, it reminds me of Soviet monuments.

Paul - As a Canadian it's next to impossible for me to comment on our Vimy Memorial in an unbiased manner; it just means too much to Canada. Putting aside the obvious symbolism of a country grieving for her war dead, the end to all wars and hope for people all over the world, Vimy represents a nation remembering her lost sons and the birth of a nation. No other memorial represents Canada the way Vimy does. Vimy is Canada.

Garth

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I remember reading that it may have been originally designed in the arch form to span a major French road a la the Menin gate but this was rejected by the French Government.

Any truth in this I wonder?

Some years ago a member of a Martin Middlebrook battlefield tour noticed that if you mentally removed the steps and the Stone of Sacrifice, the Thiepval memorial was similar to the Menin Gate. He wondered if it was designed to go over a road. Martin Middlebrook got someone at the CWGC to check this out and it was discovered that the memorial was originally designed to go across the Albert-Bapaume road at the site of Pozieres windmill, which is the highest point of the battlefields.

The French government asked for the memorial to be placed somewhere else because they thought it would restrict any future changes to the road.

Tom

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one must never forget that the monuments were made in the architectory spirit of that time period. Te twenties and thirties brought more of these monuments and buildings in this style. Renewment and taking distance of the victorian style of building and society is what it represents. Just the right kind of monument to remember the men and woman who fought to make this possible.

And thats why i like it in for all its simplicety and for that time renewing style.

Patrick

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I do not like Vimy, it reminds me of Soviet monuments.

Having visited the former Soviet bloc, I would disagree. While there is a superficial resemblance in style, the beauty and cleanliness, the surroundings are completely different. And to see the way that the memorial dominates what was German-held territory - I think it is a truly magnificent and worthy commemoration of the Canadian contribution.

Robert

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Lots of people preferred it as it was before the bricks were replaced in the late 70s/early 80s. They couldn't afford to replace the original hand-made bricks which were sort of straw-coloured. The Memorial looked more like the colour of the surrounding fields and appeared quite different. Softer, if you know what I mean.

Tom

Tom

I hadn't realised that the brickwork had been renewed. Do you know of any colour photographs of the former brickwork?

Presumably there are stairs in it. Do you know if it is possible to pre-arrange a trip to the top? The view must be amazing.

Tim

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Tom-

Do you have any pictures of the Theipval monument pre-brick replacement? that's very interesting.

Garth-

Like your descritpion of it very much. Reminds me of another writers verdict: Designed by Lutyens in the High Empire Style (if there is a such a style) there is no backing down about it. It is stubborn, stoical. Like the deadlocked armies of the war it stands its ground."

M

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Tim, no I haven't seen a colour picture of the memorial before the facings were changed to red bricks, but you can often see a difference in shade when looking at old black-and-white pictures. The Holts refer to this change of bricks in their Somme guidebook, by the way.

There are steps up the inside of the memorial, and in an earlier thread are some pictures taken from the top by a WFA USA member. Paul Guthrie might be able to help us find the thread, as he started it, if I remember correctly.

Tom

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If this is of any use, here is Lutyens' original idea...whether you like it or not is a personal matter, I'm not an architect but it seems to do it,s job in making a strong presence...you don't forget you've seen it!

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