The Beacon at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

, 24 June 2021
The Beacon at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve
The Beacon © Barry Yates

Those of you who have been visiting Rye Harbour Nature Reserve will have noticed a large yellow structure being erected. It's called The Beacon and we speak to the creators to find out more about it.

What is The Beacon?

It is a Climate Art commission – a temporary large-scale installation designed and constructed by a local architectural designer, Joseph Williams. It is the outcome of a three-month residency in Rye, which brought together three multidisciplinary practitioners, working across biology, public art, film, and architecture.

Beacon 6190011 pillbox web

This project has been undertaken in cooperation with Sussex Wildlife Trust, generously supported by Bridgepoint Rye and the Kowitz Family Foundation.

We hope it will encourage interest in the conservation of wildlife among school groups and visitors, highlighting the beauty within the area. Serving as a symbol of hope and reunion, The Beacon is envisaged as a temporary outdoor space for community and education events, finally permissible after months of lockdown.

What materials is it made from and what’s the process been?

Ethically sourced bamboo; and the fabric is an innovative European-made nylon stretch fabric.

Using stretch fabric allowed us to cover more surface with less material, which minimises the environmental impact of the overall structure.

There are no natural alternatives with the same stretchability.

Beacon 6190008 centre web

Nylon can be reused over and over again, reducing the amount of energy, water, and fossil fuels required with each use. For a structure of eight metres tall, it has a remarkably low carbon footprint. It is not ‘an iceberg structure’ – no concrete is used in its foundation and it has a minimal impact on the site.

In terms of the process, the construction remains one of the most polluting industries in the world with close to 40% of global energy-related carbon emissions being released from buildings. Joseph William’s relatively small-scale site-responsive experiment contributes to a better understanding of how architects and designers could find solutions to environmental change and understand our impact on the planet.

To make this project a reality, we partnered up with the world-leading engineering firm AKT II  who saw great potential in Joseph’s ambitious design. The rigging techniques employed here had never previously been used in the UK.

What's the purpose?

We hope to spark conversation about architecture and climate change; to inspire the younger generation, to celebrate the natural beauty of Rye Harbour.

It was inspired by a common local plant found across the shingle of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve the Yellow Horned-poppy

Yellow horned poppy june 21

How long is it in place?

It is here until 25 July. It will be exhibited elsewhere after that (using all the same materials) making it a very sustainable installation

Beacon 6190012 side web

From 26th June until 25th July 2021

Joseph Williams’ website, or follow @climateartuk


  • mary:

    Stunning – and nice to see it is linked to the wild yellow Poppies there Not sure it is something I would like to see at beautiful natural Rye Harbour always but know it is a short term project Hope it helps people to look after our Planet more – so hope so x

    27 Jun 2021 08:16:00

  • Gerald:

    Visible from Petts Level, even on an overcast day.

    01 Jul 2021 19:32:00

  • Andrew Bugden:

    I think its pretty hideous, the colour completely unsympathetic to the beach and sea, at first sight from a distance I thought it was a funfair or big top with an unusual design. If it was blue or green, or just plain bamboo, it might have not been quite so bad, but as a cheap looking man made structure, it only detracts from the natural beauty of the coast. Interesting to see the use of bamboo as a construction material, but bamboo and nylon has no connection with this landscape and I cannot see how this structure encourages any environmental awareness.

    ANSWER Hi Andrew Thank you for your views on "The Beacon". As an art project it has divided people, as so often with art. Many like it very much, some don't! The colour is yellow in order to reflect the Yellow Horned-poppy that grows on the reserve. You will note that it is a temporary structure and will be dismantled and totally removed after 25th July. I am sympathetic to such projects because I have seen how it can engage a different audience in wildlife and environmental issues. I do hope that you enjoyed some of our special wildlife during your visit, the most biodiverse site in the county. Kind regards, Dr Barry Yates Reserve Manager

    15 Jul 2021 21:27:00

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