mark wallinger + studio octopi use rammed stone to create secluded sanctuary in surrey

mark wallinger + studio octopi use rammed stone to create secluded sanctuary in surrey

an architectural artwork by mark wallinger and studio octopi has opened at runnymede in the english county of surrey. more than 800 years ago, the meadow of runnymede served as the location where feudal barons forced king john to seal the magna carta — a founding moment in shaping the basis of common law across the world. titled ‘writ in water’, the installation celebrates the enduring significance of the charter, and has been designed to offer an immersive environment for contemplation and reflection.

writ in water mark wallinger
all images © national trust images/andrew butler



commissioned by the national trust in association with arts producers situations, the project is by artist mark wallinger in collaboration with architecture firm studio octopi. in developing the concept, wallinger drew inspiration from clause 39 of the magna carta, which states that: ‘no free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land’.

writ in water mark wallinger
the project has been installed at runnymede in the english county of surrey



flanked by the river thames on one side and an ox-bow lake on the other, a circular structure has been built using rammed stone directly from the site. the installation takes its name from the inscription on poet john keats’ gravestone, which reads, ‘here lies one whose name was writ in water’. an exterior doorway leads to a simple circular labyrinth, in which the visitor can choose to turn left or right to reach an inner doorway that opens out into a central chamber. here, the sky looms through a wide oculus above a pool of water, as reflective as a still font.

writ in water mark wallinger
the text is made visible by the water’s reflection



the sides of the pool are inscribed on the inner side, with the water reflecting the reversed and inverted lettering of clause 39 as the visitor moves around the pool. ‘in writ in water, the use of reflection to make the text legible plays against the idea of a law written in stone,’ explains mark wallinger. ‘magna carta curtailed this divine right and issued the first secular writ.’

writ in water mark wallinger
the artist was inspired by clause 39 of the magna carta



‘keats though despairing of his legacy was to become one of the immortals and his words live anew when learnt and repeated by every succeeding generation,’ wallinger continues. ‘similarly, although magna carta established the law and the nascent principles of human rights, the united kingdom has no written constitution. what seems like a birthright has to be learned over and over and made sense of. whether the words are ephemeral or everlasting is up to us.’

writ in water mark wallinger
the circular structure has been built using rammed stone directly from the site

writ in water mark wallinger
the structure has been built in cubits, an ancient unit of measure

writ in water mark wallinger
‘writ in water’ is open seven days a week at runnymede and is free to enter

    have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
    all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

    comments policy
    LOG IN
    designboom's comment policy guidelines
    generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
    the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

    what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
    let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

    - please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
    - please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
    - please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
    - please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
    - please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
    (there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
    in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
    the best 100-200 entries too.)

    a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


    a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

    architecture news

    keep up with our daily and weekly stories
    503,283 subscribers
    - see sample
    - see sample
    designboom magazine