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Restless-Temple-Loop-3Tremenheere Sculpture Garden,  Gulval, Penzance, TR20 8YL

Restless Temple – ride the storm

Temples are usually made of stone, stand still and glorify mortal and immortal power. I started to think about this temple in 2000, as a monument to our ambitious and precarious ingenuity – always at the mercy of the forces of Nature. This temple moves between the powers of wind and gravity.

Its columns are hollow, just a light cedar skin. The engineered strength is similar to that of a ship’s mast. A core of tensioned steel runs from temple top to the counterweights at the bottom.

It’s uncertain how long the temple will ride the storms and survive intact. Any decay is seen as part of its journey. Hopefully it will have time enough to attract plants, mosses and lichens.

me with belly

Across the years I had help on this design from many engineers, three universities and an earthquake expert. But, most especially, it was Rob Higgs, a sculptural engineer based in Penryn, who helped me bring it to fruition. Together we worked on the pendulum design, which he then built while I made the columns and the circular concrete weights.

After 35 years making mechanised sets and props with Forkbeard Fantasy, the theatre and animation company, I’ve moved outdoors into natural light and the realities of nature.”

Visit the temple  LIVE below.

The sun sets behind the temple and then it’s lit till 11.00. It looks beautiful in moonlight when the lights go out and, of course, it’s at its most dynamic in gales. At winds of over 60mph the temple is temporarily chained down…. (see below)

STOP PRESS!  24th December 2020  After five and a half years of surviving wild Cornish storms and the day the UK finally broke off from the EU – one of the 14 pillars finally crumpled to bits.  As a result the pendulums will be locked off for a few months while the temple is renovated.

The Restless Temple’s journey, 1999 to 2015

house              image007

“I was asked to a Pre-Millennium Tension weekend at Dartington in 1999 – ideas for less jingoistic ways of celebrating the last 1000 years – I thought of splitting the atom, the image of the house blowing apart in the Los Alamos atom bomb test –  and so to a Glass Temple at the mercy of the elements, blowing in the wind.”

The first model

plastic 4 arups

“I took this next model to ARUP who generously helped me develop the possibilities over the next couple of years.  I realised I needed to learn more about engineering.  So, with help from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, I continued to research and develop ideas in whatever time I could find in between Forkbeard shows, films and exhibitions.”

jackie's pic175

“After talking with Dr Mark Miadownik at Kings College, London I embarked on a short course on basic workshop engineering. I visited Jamie Taylor of The Wave Power Group at Edinburgh University and had a series of meetings with Ian Duncan of Structures 1 in Bristol,  learning the language of engineering” 

The Coco de Mer palm tree’s root bowl helps it to withstand the fiercest typhoons – an important inspiration


Different designs and engineering solutions emerged as I learnt more and more how I wanted it look and move.”

plastic model (nice) image022

v early glass outside    pencil:early OA

“An invaluable adviser over the years has been Dr Adam Crewe at Bristol University, a specialist in engineering structures to withstand earthquakes.” 

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Two of his students at Bristol did their PhD on The Glass Temple. This image shows analysis of the turbulence around the pillars in the Wind Tunnel.

image039          broken pediment idea


paper version           neil and me temple

“In 2011 David Kendall of Optima Projects developed a feasibility study to explore the temple’s potential as a public building with steps and an indoor space below where people can watch the pendulums at work. I hope that’ll be the next stage after Tremenheere. These are some drawings from that report:

     image037                             gimbal2

C:UsersDavidDocuments Optima JobsOP031 Temple SculptureTe

….and my sketches of the sub-structure:

templ sketch inside140                      Temple_under-inside total

Neil Armstrong, the owner of Tremenheere, has been interested in hosting the temple from as long ago as 2002, before he officially opened the Sculpture Garden to the public a few years later.  It was about three years ago that its installation there was all set in motion. And it was then I started working with Rob Higgs on the version we would build for Tremenheere.”

perusing a gimbal with Rob

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image033                  wooden pillars+me

pillar up          pilla in the snow

EPSON scanner image

 DSCF4415 DSCF4421 A left

Test version, Winter 2013
Platform being welded at Metalcraft in Penryn
temple site:4 straintakers
Foundations laid

resting temple      Table laid

alan's Spinal tap moment
spinal tap moment

rob + counterweights          OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Restless Temple is being built a mere stone’s throw from St Michael’s Way. The route, which dates back to pre-historic times (10000 BC to 410 AD), is thought to have been used by pilgrims and missionaries who arrived from Ireland or Wales and chose to abandon their ships and walk across the peninsula from Lelant to Marazion rather than navigating the treacherous waters around Land’s End

trem view:sea

Penny’s Restless Temple partners and links:

Rob Higgs is a mechanical sculptor, automata maker and inventor. You can see his work and find out more at:   <>

Tremenheere Sculpture Garden is a stunningly beautiful garden of exotic and sub-tropical planting. Interwoven with this there is also an evolving programme of contemporary art installations including works by James Turrell, David Nash, Kishio Suga, Richard Long and many more:

Forkbeard Fantasy  I’ve worked with Forkbeard since 1979. You can see more of my creations for  exhibitions, live theatre shows and films here:

The other main collaborator and supporter on this journey has been my partner and fellow Forkbeard Tim Britton.

Alan Munden of Quay Design, Falmouth, worked on the smartening up the carpentry on the pillars after their trial run through the gales of 2013 and the overall construction on site at Tremenheere. Eleanor Bell, from Penryn, designed the lighting for the temple. Over  the last couple of years we’re grateful for the support and encouragement of Peter Hampel, Director of Edenlab, and Chris Hastings , for all his invaluable help on Health & Safety issues ….and many many more.

The Restless Temple at Tremenheere has been built with the enthusiastic support of many local metalworkers, electricians and craftspeople from the Penryn, Falmouth and Penzance area including  Metalcraft (Penryn), Rufus Morris, Steve Richards Electrical, Dan Franklin and Alfie and Jude Munden to name just a few…..

The film below  was shot on 1st June 2015 in 40mph gusts and pouring rain:

A film of the early prototype test version in 2013: