A CHRISTIAN businessman and former football chaplain from Leicester has unveiled an ambitious plan to build Britain’s answer to Rio de Janeiro’s famous statue Christ the Redeemer — a million-brick monument to answered prayer.
Richard Gamble’s idea — which, he says, was given to him by God 13 years ago — is to collect a million stories about how God has answered prayers, and then build a colossal wall with a million bricks to represent those answered prayers.
The idea has already gathered mainstream backing. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) organised a competition to shortlist designs for the landmark and the BBC Business News journalist Sally Bundock hosted a launch event in Parliament two weeks ago.
Through the generosity of 692 people on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter, Mr Gamble has raised £47,000 to begin his plans.
”People would be able to go past this colossal structure, and know that each brick represents an individual story where somebody has prayed to Jesus and he has answered that prayer,” Mr Gamble said.
Inspired by the success of the Angel of the North sculpture near Gateshead, Mr Gamble hopes that his wall will sit next to a motorway where tens of thousands of drivers could see it each day. The monument will also host a visitor centre and a 24/7 prayer room.
In the competition run by RIBA, 134 architects and practices from 24 countries sent in plans for the wall, before a panel of judges decided on four designs to make it through to the second round. A fifth design was selected by a public vote via Facebook.
The architect chosen by RIBA to chair the panel, Renato Benedetti, said that, although he was a long-lapsed Roman Catholic, he saw the potential in Mr Gamble’s dream.
”It appealed right away. My father was a bricklayer, and that’s also how I paid my way through university,” he said. “There was an affinity. And I like bricks.
”We were very pleased by the number of entries and the breadth of approach taken. It obviously touched a nerve in people of different countries.”
Architects from Gloucestershire, Bath, and Southampton, as well as others from Denmark and Italy, have reached the second stage of the contest, with five contrasting designs.
”Christian faith has been key to the character of our country for well over a thousand years. This wall of answered prayer will be a striking modern representation of that faith,” the MP Stephen Timms said at the parliamentary launch. “It has the potential to become deeply etched on our national consciousness.”
Mr Gamble said that building the wall would cost £6.23 million, although the costs of maintenance and an associated project to build social housing with another million bricks would bring the cost to £10 million.
The second phase of the scheme to find a site for the structure and decide on the final design will be finished by the end of this year.
Individual donations of £10 for every answered prayer submitted to his website www.thewall.org.uk would meet the bulk of the cost, Mr Gamble said. “We plan for the wall to last 200 years. We worked out that over 200 years the Church will spend £1.7 billion on carpets. If you compare the two, we think it is a good investment.”