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Memorial to Turing 'threatens existing character' of King's College

by Lovie McKerihan (2020-05-13)


An Alan Turing sculpture which is set to be constructed at the mathematician's alma mater could threaten the 'existing character' of the Cambridge College, Historic England has claimed. 

The 12ft steel structure, designed by Sir Antony Gormley, will commemorate the Second World War code-breaker, who attended King's College in Cambridge between 1931 and 1934.

Sir Antony's memorial will look over the chapel at the College in a reminder of Turing's achievements, but Historic England has warned the statue 'would be at odds with the existing character of the College.'

It added the memorial could impact the 'striking collection of historic buildings within a sweeping landscape' which made up a 'much-loved view in the city', the Times reported. 






The 12ft steel structure, designed by Sir Antony Gormley, will commemorate Second World War code breaker Alan Turing (pictured), who attended King's College in Cambridge between 1931 and 1934


Under plans submitted to Cambridge City Council, the work will consist of 19 steel slabs stacked against each other in the form of an abstract metal figure.  

Adam Gardner, deputy Clerk of Works at King's College Cambridge, said in planning documents that the sculpture would be located 'beside a pathway that is constantly flowing with students, fellows and members of the University.'

He added that the artwork is 'inspired by the work and life of Alan Turing himself', explaining it is large enough to 'stand directly on the ground.' 

But Historic England fears the plans could severely impact the character of the 15th century college, which is part of the University of Cambridge.






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Claire Campbell, from Historic England, said: 'We recognise that the proposal would deliver some enhancement to the significance of the King's College through the introduction of a sculpture by a renowned contemporary sculptor and the visible commemoration of Turing. These could also be considered as public benefits.

'However, we consider the introduction of an eye catching sculpture in a prominent position within the landscape at King's would be at odds with the existing character of the College.






Under plans submitted to Cambridge City Council, the work will consist of 19 steel slabs stacked against each other in the form of an abstract metal figure (Pictured: an artist impression of the memorial)









Sir Antony's memorial will look over the chapel at King's College (pictured) in a reminder of Turing's achievements, but Historic England has warned the statue 'would be at odds with the existing character of the College'


'This would result in harm, of a less than substantial nature, to the significance of the listed buildings and landscape, and by extension the conservation area.' 

Sir Antony, who is best known for the Angel of the North near Gateshead, studied archaeology, anthropology and history of art at Trinity College at the University of Cambridge.

In a statement, he said: 'I am in debt to King's College and its committee for giving me an extraordinary opportunity to think about this very particular person who unlocked the door between the industrial and the information ages.

'In honouring Alan Turing and reflecting on his remarkable contribution to the way we live now I do not want to make a statue but the very best sculpture that I can make.' 

Turing's code-breaking at Bletchley Park during the Second World War is estimated to have saved more than 14 million lives.

He and his co-workers are thought to have shortened the war in Europe by several years when they cracked the German 'Enigma' cipher.

As well as his success in cryptography, Turing's work formed the basis for the field of artificial intelligence.






Turing's code-breaking at Bletchley Park during the Second World War is estimated to have saved more than 14 million lives







Cambridge City Council has yet to make a decision on the King's College planning application


But in 1953, at the age of 41, he took his own life after being prosecuted for homosexual acts, still considered criminal in the UK at the time.

Turing studied mathematics at King's from 1931 to 1934, and soon after he was elected to be a fellow at the College.

Sir Anthony added: 'Turing was someone who had a strong moral sense and his personal life was extremely difficult.

'He was someone who had a remarkable way of making decisions unaffected by emotional bias but at the same time was highly emotional himself.

'Here at King's I want to see if it is possible to make a monumental work that is nevertheless about human vulnerability and the vulnerability of genius.

'Of all Cambridge's colleges, King's has always been the most advanced and open to the new.'

Professor Nicolette Zeeman, a fellow at King's College Cambridge, said: 'It is hard to overestimate the importance of Alan Turing's contribution to many areas of contemporary intellectual life and culture.

'Turing was by training a mathematician, but was unusually wide-ranging in his interests, and had a distinctive practical orientation.

'He made enduring and fundamental contributions to mathematics, logic, computer science, cryptography, and biology. His place in national history is secured by his pivotal role in war-time code breaking.' 

A spokesman for King's College Cambridge said: 'A proposal for a new sculpture has been under consideration for some time.

'The college is conscious of the many distinguished contributions made by its fellows to mathematics and the sciences, and tour thác bản giốc in particular of Alan Turing's achievements in the field of computing.'

The college stressed that any potential 'negative' impact caused by the placement of Sir Antony's sculpture would be outweighed by the significant public benefit it would deliver.

It added: 'The Turing Memorial Sculpture will play an important role in expressing the 20th and 21st century life of King's College and the collective intellectual effort associated with this famous place of learning.'       

Cambridge City Council has yet to make a decision on the planning application.