The Emirate of Sharjah has been named the UNESCO World Book Capital for 2019 and to commemorate the honour, artist Gerry Judah has created a new large-scale sculpture titled The Scroll. The work was commissioned by Sharjah Investment and Development Authority, Shurooq, officially kicked off a year of celebrations in the titled Sharjah recently gained.
The sculpture clocks in at 36 metres tall featuring a massive spiral of stark white steel – 72 tonnes of it, to be exact. At the closest point in the spiral, the sheets of metal are only about 6 inches apart from each other but the edges never touch. The sculpture sits atop a concrete foundation outside of the House of Wisdom, designed by Foster + Partners who expect it to be completed in 2020, and nearby to Sharjah University City and Sharjah International Airport. For its size, the work is surprisingly lightweight and solid, thanks to a construction technique called monocoque developed by Judah and his engineers. The Scroll’s structure allows for it to work with and against the harsh desert winds of Sharjah.
Judah found inspiration for The Scroll exactly where you might think: ancient scrolls – Arabic ones. The concept is rooted in ‘the early form of written word.’ Thus, it ‘represents the long-lasting power and significance of books
and reading to culture and heritage,’ bringing together the history of the area, the unifying power of books, and the Book Capital award. ‘Gerry’s sculpture is a perfect complement to the minimalist geometry of our building,’ says Gerard Eveden, Head of Studio of Foster + Partners.
Born in Calcutta, Judah moved to London with his family at a young age before attending London’s Goldsmiths College and Slade School of Fine Arts. He has worked with large, public institutions like the Royal Opera House and the British Museum so he takes naturally to public installations as opposed to the confined space of galleries. He has worked in films, theatres, museums, and television most recently having completed another large-scale sculpture in Auckland called Jacob’s Ladder. In 2000, he was commissioned to create a model of the selection ramp at Auschwitz Birkenau for the Imperial War Museum Holocaust Exhibition and in 2014, he created two large-scale sculptures for St. Paul’s Cathedral marking 100 years since the start of World War II.
While Judah designed The Scroll, it came to fruition with the assistance of DIALES (Driver International Arbitration Litigation Expert Services), who provided engineering expertise, and Rimond, who built the structure.
Each year, the UNESCO World Book Capital moves from one city to the next, bestowing the honour on a city that is dedicated to promoting books and reading. Sharjah was chosen for its innovative and comprehensive approach with an objective ‘to foster a culture of reading in the United Arab Emirates and inspire new initiatives to meet the challenge of literary creation in the area.’ It follows Athens and Wroclaw, which served as the last two capitals in 2018 and 2017, respectively, and precedes Kuala Lumpur, which has been announced as the 2020 capital.