The Mud Soldier

By Ogilvy & Social Lab, Brussels, Belgium

For Visit Flanders Brand Flanders Fields

Winner in category Design & Branding

In subcategory Installation/Experience/Exhibition

Project Description
In 1917, the battle of Passchendaele took place in the Flanders Fields. The battle is one of the deadliest and least effective battles of WWI, killing nearly 500,000 people in less than 3 months, lots of them by drowning as the incessant rain transformed the trenches into deadly mud traps. More than half of the victims were British.
Flanders Fields is a highly touristic region in Belgium. But in 2016, it experienced a dramatic drop in visitors. Particularly amongst their largest group of foreign tourists: the British. So, to move people and incite them to Visit Flanders Fields again, tourism organisation Visit Flanders wanted to leverage the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele.
Agency Solution
To mark the centenary of the battle of Passchendaele, we unveiled “The Mud Soldier” on the 25th July 2017. A statue placed on the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square, right in the heart of London. It stands as a symbol of the struggle soldiers faced in the deadly muddy trenches. This unique outdoor art installation, sculpted with sand and mud from the Flanders Fields of Passchendaele, slowly dissolved as it was exposed to the rain.
For the very first time, a sculptor was asked to create a statue that would not stand for too long. The aim was, after weeks of real-size testing, to find the right balance between sand and mud as the statue should be strong enough to stand for several days, while slowly dissolving under the rain. We therefore also designed a watering system that allowed us to control the dissolving process with more precision.
This ephemeral statue was an emotional reminder of all those soldiers that disappeared by drowning in the deadly mud traps of Flanders Fields. And a reminder that their memory lives on.
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