Goodwood’s gravity-defying sculptures

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The Central Feature at the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed is a 90-foot tall 'swoop of steel' celebrating Aston Martin | Goodwood photos

The Duke of Richmond was working as a commercial photographer and Gerry Judah was a set designer when they hatched the idea of creating a focal point for the Festival of Speed held at the Duke’s family’s Goodwood House.

Known as the Central Feature, Judah has designed a huge metal sculpture to represent the festival’s featured marque, and often to appear to defy the laws of physics.

For the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed, taking place July 4-7, that featured marque was Aston Martin.

“Seventy years ago, Aston Martin first raced at Goodwood and, 10 years later, our histories were forever linked when it sealed the 1959 World Sportscar Championship here at Goodwood Motor Circuit in September of that year,” the Duke is quoted in a news release. 

“It was also in 1959 that Aston Martin launched its works at Newport Pagnell – so 2019 is a perfect time for us to celebrate Aston Martin’s past, present and future success.”

Audi’s centennial was the focus in 2011
The artist Gerry Judah and the Central Figure-style sculpture he did for Porsche’s headquarters in Germany

To celebrate that history, Judah created a 30-meter (100-foot) tall “swoop of steel with the Le Mans winning Aston martin DBR1 racing towards the sky on a never-ending race track,” according to Aston Martin Lagonda. 

As much as 150 tons of steel are used in the Central Feature construction.

“The process can take anywhere between four to nine months,” Judah said. “It all depends on how soon the featured marque gets involved. I will then sit down with the company to get an idea of what they want to express, their spirit and vision.” 

The Duke of Richmond has remained very active in the process.  “There is definitely a form of collaboration with the His Grace,” Judah said. Because of our history, there’s a lot of dialogue as we both know where we want the Central Feature to go.”

Mazda and the heritage of Japanese cars was the Central Feature in 2015
Mazda sculpture closeup

Judah’s father was from Burma and his mother from India, where he was born and lived until he was 10 and his family moved to London. His art has been inspired by the dramatic landscapes of India, the ornate architecture of its religious buildings and the austere post-war British city of his teenage years.

He studied as an architectural draftsman before enrolling in college to study art and design, and became known for his set designs for opera and ballet, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the BBC and British museums.

“Every Central Feature is built by closely working with engineers and fabricators,” Judah explained. “It’s vital to collaborate on a project this size this to ensure the Central Features are structurally sound and can withstand the elements for several days.”   

In 2014, Mercedes-Benz motorsports history was the focus

And if they appear to defy the laws of physics, that’s all the better. For example, in 2018, the featured marque was Porsche and while the Central Feature rose 52 meters (170 feet) into the sky, its steel spine was only 12 centimeters (less than 5 inches) in diameter. 

Engineering innovations also are used in the Central Feature construction. For example, the 2015 Lotus sculpture was built by welding 6mm flat metal sheets together.

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“The way we cut and welded the sheets together created a stiff monocoque,” Judah said. “The shape and skin of the Central Feature became its structure” in a 3D infinity loop design made of 11 sections. 

Judah’s favorite Central Feature celebrated Jaguar’s E-type in 2011

Judah has done 23 Central Features for Goodwood’s Festival of Speed. If he has a favorite, he said it’s the 2011 Central Feature that celebrated the 50th anniversary of the E-type.

“It was just a very holistic design,” he said, involving 150 tons of painted 12mm recycled steel that previously was used as gas pipes. 

That Jaguar Central Feature also is the only one that has not been recycled; Jaguar has plans to display the sculpture at its factory.

Toyota’s 75th anniversary was represented in 2007

Judah said his goal for the Central Feature is to convey what the subject means in a broader context.

“They represent dynamics, speed, engineering and celebration – everything the Festival stands for.”

Judah’s sculpture in 2012 looked at Lotus and its history

Goodwood Festival of Speed Central Features

2019: Aston Martin — 70th Anniversary of racing at Goodwood and 60th of 1-2 finish at Le Mans

2018: Porsche – 70th Anniversary

2017:  Bernie Ecclestone – Life and career of Bernie Ecclestone

2016:  BMW – Motorsports success

2015:  Mazda – Motorsports and Japanese heritage 

2014:  Mercedes-Benz – 120th Anniversary in Motorsports

2013:  Porsche – 50 Years of 911

2012:  Lotus – Past, Present, Future

2011:  Jaguar – 50 Years of E-Type

2010:  Alfa Romeo – 100th Anniversary

2009:  Audi – 100th Anniversary

2008:  Land Rover – 60th Anniversary

2007:  Toyota – 75th Anniversary

2006:  Renault – 100th Anniversary of Grand Prix racing

2005:  Honda – Return to Formula 1

2004:  Rolls Royce – 100th Anniversary

2003:  Ford – 100th Anniversary

2002:  Renault – Return to Formula 1

2001:  Mercedes-Benz – 100th Anniversary

2000:  Jaguar – Formula 1 debut 

1999:  Audi – 90th Anniversary

1998:  Porsche – 50th Anniversary

1997:  Ferrari – 50th Anniversary

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Who is this guy, and why isn’t he one of the most famous sculptural artists ever? All of us in the hobby know of the Duke of Richmond, Goodwood, his passion, and his devotion to the history and evolution of the automobile.
    Although I have seen some photos of Mr. Judah’s earlier "Centers", this article is the first I’ve seen in the automotive press explaining- a bit- his history and connection with His Grace.
    Can you please do a more in depth report about this phenomenal metalworker? All these tattooed up egos stroking themselves on endless cable series about their mostly useless vanity TV projects, and Judah doesn’t even rate a guest spot with Leno? Really?
    Must. Know. More.

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