The making of Layers of Bournemouth

Layers of Bournemouth is a 2.5 metre high rammed-earth sculpture that was created during a site-specific art performance as part of the 2018 Bournemouth Emerging Arts Fringe (B.E.A.F.) festival. The artist Briony Marshall and a team of local volunteers dug up different coloured soils from the area to create a finished work that reflects the geology of the local cliffs. The distinctive geometric sculpture stands as a record of our presence yet also remind us of the unknowable vastness of time.

Maquette development
Construction image

BEAF, Bournemouth Emerging Arts Fringe, is a voluntary run creative organisation that provides a platform to support and develop the emerging independent arts sector across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole and whose main activity is the annual BEAF festival which brings together over 150 artists and stages some 50 events. The festival and the commision was funded by Arts Council of Britain, Bournemouth Coastal BID and the Boscombe Regeneration Partnership.

Bournemouth is located in the UK county of Dorset that has layers of rock that date from a vast spread of geological time from 200 to 40 million years ago and surface deposits from 2 million years ago to the present. The artist in liaison with the local council identified Hengitsbury Head, a SSSI site and local tourist spot, as a suitable location for the project. A site was chosen on the edge of a path just below the crest of the cliff. This provided a backdrop to the sculpture that revealed parts of the local strata, colour of the cliffs and framed the sculpture in such a way that revealed the scale of the work.

 The Artist Briony Marshall put the project together in answer to an open call for proposal by BEAF. She collaborated with the architecture department at the Art University Bournemouth (AUB) and managed to garner the support of lots of local residents. Although currently living in London, Briony spent much of her childhood in Dorset.

The project was Briony’s first public art commission and the first chance to make a large scale rammed earth sculpture.


The design was built on Briony’s earlier small scale rammed earth work and took inspiration from the colour and pattern of the local cliffs.

The foundations and formwork for the rammed earth sculpture

Briony ramming earth into the formwork.

soil scrape

The earth for the sculpture was sourced from the White Ponds area of Hengitsbury Head where Natterjack Toads mate. Fortuitously, the build coincided with the start of mating season, and the park rangers normally need to do a soil scrape in this area to provide a suitable environment for the toads to mate. But that year, we were able to provide the scraped soil for the toads.

Volunteer moving bags of soil

I was hugely grateful to the many volunteers who helped on the project. This photo shows a dedicated helper moving a wheelbarrow filled with bags of soil.

Build took 100 hours onsite witnessed by 30,000 visitors
1,500 people engaged the team in conversation
80 passers-by (adults and children) helped in the creation
19 volunteers spent an average of 1.1 days helping create the work
The work continues to get 600,000 visitors / year


the unveiling

Then came the moment of truth when we took the box apart. I was helped that morning by a group of volunteers that I had engaged in conversation over the previous couple of days. It was nerve-wracking for me, and strange to be sharing it with a group of strangers…

The unboxing crew

The unboxing crew – but after the experience of opening it up together, we no longer felt like strangers. And there we had Layers of Bournemouth fresh out of its box:

formwork dismantled

And the dismantled formwork looked amazing with traces of the earth left behind on it.

See more information about the finished artwork here:

Layers of Bournemouth by starlight
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