I was very excited to make this shortlist – and was then asked to develop some of the draft ideas submitted with the application before the final artist selection was made. On 18th December I sent myself to Coventry, a day return by train from my home in Ramsgate. There was no option, I had to see it for myself.
We may not know it or acknowledge it, but we all store impressions of places we have been. We intuitively know how a place makes us feel. We can learn how to navigate from A – B via landmarks rather than signage. Feeling our way around. Buildings, the curve of a street – the shape of a tree, the colour of a door, sounds and smells, a wobbly flagstone. I have been ‘looking’ at places in this way for thirty years or more. It’s a habit now, unselfconscious & automatic, creatively surveying spaces, unpicking and unravelling.
This isn’t an academically critical or formal process, it is an emotional and personal one. You follow your nose. I follow mine. Seeing & feeling the shape, colour and texture of places. Cherry-picking images – a personal choice, but it starts to build an original visual language with which to understand & express for myself what makes a place interesting. I’m not looking for rights and wrongs either. I am simply fascinated by the way places communicate. Authenticity is hard to find. We live in a global and increasingly
I see patterns in everything. I am fascinated by pavement and pathways – I really am! – I see the history trodden into granite kerbs, threshold slabs, door handles. I notice the craft of buildings, no matter how grand or lowly. The hand of a maker. I see how people take pride in their place of work, their home, themselves.
The celebration of our skills as makers and creators.
I explore on foot. I can’t drive. I seek out what is hidden and forgotten. I see the connections between things past and present. I like the backstreets and the secret places. Curiosity is a sharpened tool of my trade.
The trigger for a project is often a detail, a small thing, something out of the usual. It may be the people, the community who live and work. It is often a combination of several strands coming together, weaving a new narrative – telling a new story. Being a visitor, I will see things differently than if I lived there. Experiences will be novel, bombarded by difference. I will try to connect and talk to people if I can. I cover a s much ground as possible on foot – this way you see the minutiae. I visit archives and museum collections. It is an immersive process. My work is process driven. By that I mean I have to be doing something in order to discover what I am doing, or what I am looking for. I never start with an idea and try to make it. I have a client brief, with a set of parameters outlining desired outcomes. My impressions of places before I visit them or often at odds with the reality of seeing them for myself. I’m like a sponge in these situations, trying to soak up as much as I can. Shaking off what I already think I know about a place is critical. It can be overwhelming having to sift through everything that comes my way – but the things that resonate and stay true and uppermost in my mind eventually begin to coalesce and form the foundation of a start.
What did I know about Coventry? WWII Bombing. The Cathedral. ‘Being sent to …’, Midlands accent, I have visited Coventry previously, it may have been as a student. I have no recall of the Station. We may have come by coach. I do remember the Cathedral, but not in detail. It was probably the reason we came.
‘During the nights of 30 November and 1 December 1940, the Southampton Blitz reached its climax as the city came under sustained attack. Hundreds of tonnes of bombs were dropped during the two nights, whilst on 30th November alone some 634 individual properties were left ablaze –’.Ordnance Survey
Sustained & heavy bombing between 23rd – 30th November 1940, left Southampton City Centre devastated. The destruction at the very heart of the built fabric of the city left seven Churches destroyed, including HolyRood, All Saints, St James’, St Mary’s, St Luke’s & St Paul’s.
Above: ‘Void’. A bespoke black terrazzo platform seat, one of two sexfoil shaped seats commissioned for the London Road scheme, completed in 2008. The public art and interpretation for the public realm and highways improvement project was inspired by the Parish of St Paul’s Church, London Road, a vibrant community and shopping street, which was effectively destroyed on November 30th 1940 during the Southampton Blitz, when the Church was bombed and devastated by fire. London Road was badly damaged and the Church never rebuilt. An evocative image from the time shows the Church interior with the shape of the destroyed Rose Window appearing as a black void. This project evolved around this one powerful image. It evokes a legacy of community, architecture and people, which is explored in the public art seating other found on site today.
This project was commissioned by Elizabeth Smith, Public Art Officer for Southampton City Council in 2005, to work in collaboration with the project team to research, develop and create concept designs and proposals for environmental public artworks integral to the London Road scheme. I was asked to establish an overall concept for the area with particular consideration of pedestrian use and movement across roads and through spaces & placemaking and urban form, hard and soft landscaping, paving details and surfacing treatments, thresholds, markers or ‘gateways’, seating and / or sculpture. My contribution was contextually driven and collaborative.
2 No. 3000mm diameter x 140mm thick pre-cast dark grey/black terrazzo platform seats manufactured in one piece to a Sexfoil pattern, inclusive of a 160mm built up external edge with 100mm radius semi bullnose detail and 10mm pencil round rebate. Grade C40 concrete is to be used. All terrazzo mixes and samples were approved prior to manufacture by Southampton City Council engineers and the project artist (me). The seats are reinforced throughout to A393 with 10mm welded bar mesh. Bottom mesh to full cover. Top mesh localised cover only to ‘hot spots’. All grit polished to a fine 120 honed finish, chemically sealed with anti-graffiti finishes approved by SCC.
5 No. 3000m x 700mm x 140 lozenge shaped benches were also manufactured, each with inset text. Both bench types have stainless steel leg supports, 316 SS spec.
The benches were positioned at relevant site along London Road, which related to past events and distant voices as well as lost buildings.
Above: Ordinary lives and everyday events were recorded in a series of surviving Parish Magazines form St Paul’s Church. These distant voices of a local community and Parish still seem fresh and lively.
‘Naked Street takes National award. Southampton’s new ‘naked street’ in London Road has picked up a national award for the Best Urban Transport Design from the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, regarded as one of the top industry awards 2010.
This is a significant boost for the naked street concept, the principles of which promote a balance of traffic movement and social uses of public spaces. London Road in Southampton was stripped of road signs, given ‘informal’ road signs, and widened footpaths. The scheme has already had a positive impact by decreases in serious injury accidents and a reduction in vehicle speeds. Living Streets believe that schemes which use naked streets principles have great potential to make our streets safer and more people-friendly, by changing the behaviour of all road users for the better. London Road in Southampton is a good example of a scheme that has improved safety and ensured accessibility.
This scheme has also been chosen by the Department of Transport (Dft) as an example of best practice and will be included in the Dft’s national design document ‘Manual for Streets 2.’
Sponsored by PUSH, the Solent Design Awards are all about the encouragement of Quality place-making: schemes that create special places, lift communities, create richer experiences …not just iconic buildings but also the places in-between, the carrier spaces for our daily lives.
At the beginning of August 2019 I was issued with a much simplified plan of the public realm proposals by LDS Architects.
Above: This image – a cropped version of the plan drawing issued by LDA, shows the principal public realm and station access roads. The previous concept proposal for the public art benches and interpretation following the radial plan as previously illustrated was no longer viable, but the strong horizontal banding across the station forecourt still provided a viable grid and scaffold upon which to set out my ideas.
I have always been in favour of using sandstone as the principle paving material, as this has history with the city, plus in terms of colour and appearance, seems much more sympathetic to the fabric of the site and its low level & undemonstrative railway architecture, rather than big city, corporate use of granite for public realm.
We could explore the use of varied sizes of paving slab, within a manageable modular framework. The stone paving in the Cathedral for example, exhibits a wide range of slab size, from a small unit square Purbeck Stone tile – which appears to have been the principle paving material – to the larger and unique Ledger (memorial) Stones in Tournai Marble & other stones.
Above: Both images explore the possibilities of embedding interpretive Public Art elements within the revised LDS Public Realm proposal – seating, paving and retaining structures bringing an original and creative interpretation to the site. Working within the proposed LDS scheme, seating could be positioned at intervals along the parallel banding, using these lines as the principal interpretive parameters.
The key in the plan above outlines the use of:
Sandstone for main paving of the forecourt –
Cast Iron elements with low relief text and / or motifs set within the parallel banding in the paving & an extra wide kerb detail . There were several Iron Foundries in Winchester, which served the Railways –
Porphyry Paving for the primary parallel banding –
Bespoke Benches or ‘Perches’ –
Possible sandblasted, inlaid or etched surface patterns to the sandstone paving – employing super-graphic motifs inspired by the medieval ceramic tiling within the Cathedral –
Granite, Cast Iron, Cast Concrete or Steel defensive barrier structures which can double as seating or ‘perches’, following the radius curve of the highway. These are modelled on cross sections through stone piers in the Cathedral. –
In June 2019 I was issued with early draft plans for the public realm proposals at the Station by LDS Architects on behalf of Winchester City Council. I proposed to add a layer of creative interpretation to these plans, based on my contextual research and employ the setting out details within the LDS plan as a secure foundation into which I could set my public art concept drafts. My proposal was always going to be about utilising the need for paving, seating, retaining walls and other practical details of public realm highways engineering to keep visual clutter at a minimum. This would also be more economic in terms of budget use and future management and maintenance.
Above: The Station building is on the left of this plan drawing (as seen from above). The plan for the public realm is primarily a sequence of parallel horizontal bands (green) delineated in the paving, which flow downhill from the Station towards City Road and another series which flow uphill along Station Road. However, this baseline geometry is combined with a radial pattern (also in green) which expresses the radius curve in the highway as it transitions from Station Road to Station Hill. This radial pattern provides the anchor for a series of seats (red) and secondary barrier structures (blue). These are concept ideas only – and not designs.
Above: This concept study shows a series of interrelated structures – which could be seating, walls, barrier structures or paving – set out in a radial pattern. These forms are presented as interpretive devices which exhibit combinations of materials and motifs, which seen together in this way embody ideas and responses developed from the contextual research I have undertaken.
Above: The Winchester Bible is regarded as the largest & finest 12th century Illuminated Manuscript. The script is by the hand of a single monk scribe from Winchester. However, the magnificent illuminations were often drawn and painted by itinerant artists – lay professionals who travelled between monasteries and centres of learning. These Illuminated Initials have been inspirational, as has the Morley Library, of which the Winchester Bible is a part. Bishop George Morley bequeathed his collection of rare books to the Cathedral in the 17th Century. His collection is also monogrammed.
Above: Polished flint terrazzo circle with inset letter ‘W’ in Swedish Marble with sandblasted detail, resin bonded in white.
Above: Plan study (meaning ‘seen from above’)of a monolithic sandstone bench with a flat seating surface with the inset letter W and Circle motifs in flint aggregate terrazzo. Below: Sandstone & Flint are primary building materials in Winchester.
“Of particular interest is the ledger stone (memorial) of Francisca Clobery, the daughter of Sir John Clobery. She died in 1683 and her grave is in the south aisle of the Retrochoir, in front of her father’s monument. It is of a distinctive Ordovician limestone (around 465 million years ago) from the Island of Öland, Sweden, containing the straight-shelled Nautiloid.” from ‘Winchester Stone’ by Dr John Parker 2016. ‘John Parker studied geology at Birmingham and Cambridge universities. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society of London. For over 30 years he worked as an exploration geologist for Shell around the world. He has lived in Winchester since 1987. On retirement he trained to be a Cathedral guide’. John has personally shown me around the Cathedral and pointed out many geologic wonders and quirks.
Above: Studies for objects (seating?) in Timber, Sandstone and Swedish Marble employing techniques of inlay, lamination, polishing and sandblasting.
Above: Study for two concept benches in monolithic black Tournai Marble with inlaid detail and laminated stone additions of Swedish Marble.
I hope to investigate manufacturing processes which allow stone to be cut, laminated, decorated and finished in a manner which embodies the richness of the Cathedral interiors and it’s ongoing repair and regeneration – BUT – in a functional manner, either as seating etc or as a method of improving wayfinding for visitors.
Station Hill leads up to Winchester Train Station from the busy junction of Stockbridge Road, City Road, Andover Road and Sussex Street. Swan Lane also joins here. The site has been historically known as Carfax, meaning the meeting of roads. The Carfax Hotel, formerly on the site now occupied by the Hampshire Records Office took its name from this historic site. The Masterplan proposals for this whole site, developed by Winchester City Council’s Consultants Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands Architects, is referred to as the Carfax Site. and incorporates the Station Approaches & public realm.
Station Hill today doesn’t give much away about it’s local community or life as a lively neighbourhood, but this wasn’t always the case.
I will try to add to this post throughout the project as new research throws up characters and stories.
Above: Warren’s Street Directories, held in the Hampshire Records Office on our doorstep, lists street by street, almost everyone who lived at each residential property. If this was a business, then it lists the nature of the business, as well as the people who owned it. A wonderful archive. The books also contain the most interesting advertising for local products and services, mostly & brilliantly illustrated.
The Train Station is seen above in the bottom left quadrant. Roger Brown’s model was based on the OS Map of 1873. Roger had been a Planning Officer for Winchester City Council.
Some key building are still extant , such as the Station and the South Western Inn, formerly the Railway Refreshment Inn – & up until 2015, Winchester Register Office. The Carfax Hotel is visible on the junction of Station Hill & Sussex Street. The terraced houses of Gladstone Street are there too, but the Reservoirs of the Sussex Brewery, seen on the OS Map of 1870 now appear to be allotment gardens. Needs a bit more investigating to discover what the reservoirs were for. I can’t find any reference to the Sussex Brewery.
Above: A bit blurry…but nonetheless the Station and Public House are clearly shown. A narrow footpath leads to Sussex House just beyond the Station in this image. A lovely circular garden feature can also be seen just left of the Station forecourt behind a fence. I wonder if this was a public or private space?
Above; At centre is the Carfax Hotel building on Station Hill and Sussex Street. This important crossroads, (or Carfax), shows a complex junction of City Road, Swan Lane, Station Hill, Andover Road and Sussex Street. Looking rather genteel – and not the complicated crossing for pedestrians we experience today.
By 1970, the Carfax Hotel, first named in 1918, had fallen into disrepair during the 1960’s. It had been taken over by the King Alfred Teacher Training College as student accommodation. However, it was demolished in 1972 as part of a road improvement scheme.
The image above is a detail of the beautifully carved ebony black polished stone 12th Century font, with its depiction of the miracles of St Nicholas. It is without doubt one of the Cathedral’s greatest treasures. It was brought from Tournai, in modern day Belgium. It has been in use ever since. It is astonishingly fresh and wonderful.
It isn’t too hard to find odd and quirky combinations of both mundane & exotic materials and examples of spectacular & naive decorative arts and crafts side by side in Winchester, especially in the Cathedral. Almost one thousand years of continual occupation of this religious site bears witness to an unbroken architectural legacy, one that is brimful of odd juxtapositions, exotic materials, renewed or replaced fabric, scratched graffiti, vandalism and destruction. Like walking through a time-warp. Robust Norman Romanesque Architecture to Perpendicular Gothic in one step. Swedish Marble to Purbeck Stone in another. Extant 13th Century inlaid ceramic floor tiles to 1960’s replicas. Striking thresholds crossed mixing time and material, yet the experience is not jarring or disjointed. Time itself has softened these transitions and blurred the edges.
I am continually cherry picking from the world around me, plucking at things, tucking things away for later – like a squirrel, gathering nuts for winter or in the manner of a herbivore, continually grazing, & chewing the cud. I am gathering visual information – an extraordinary cabinet of curiosity in my mind. Certain things catch my attention, whilst others pass me by. This eclectic meander is not a considered or deliberate creative manoeuvre. It is innate. It is my pattern of speech, it is my handwriting. It simply is.
SANDSTONE – FLINT – LIMESTONE – EBONY BLACK TOURNAI MARBLE – HAND MADE BRICK – OAK TIMBERS – INLAID CERAMIC TILES – MONOLITHIC GRANITE – CAST IRON – GUN METAL – CARVED OAK – STAINED GLASS – WINDOW TRACERY – LEAD
These sketches and studies below are part of a series of early drafts and drawings, which were completed in June this year. They were derived from contextual research and concept design development for the generation of the interpretive public art elements at Winchester Station. Several versions of this initial research have been submitted for discussion and comment.
These early drafts considered an ‘all-over’ repeating pattern for natural sandstone paving, influenced by the Cathedral’s extant 13th Century medieval inlaid ceramic floor tiles – and used here as a super-graphic motif. At this time I was not responding to any masterplan proposals from the client’s Architects and Urban Planners LDS – as these had not yet been circulated for discussion. The ideas were formulated in response to my own research in the city and now form the foundations of my project approach.
The building stones of Winchester are hugely influential when looking at the interpretation of place and the significance of the Station as a gateway to the City. Although granite has been used here, local sandstones and limestones with flint and brick dominate.
The low lying architectural scale and presentation of the Station buildings, warrant a softer frame with regard to paving. Sandstone fits this bill. Granite being perhaps too corporate and ubiquitous for this site.
The City has a strong tradition of procession and pilgrimage, which reinforces notions of way finding and direction, arrival and departure, as well as the physical experience of walking and the materials you are walking upon.
Early beginnings…outlines…some thoughts and notes –
Actually, this short concept development project was commissioned in May 2019 by Winchester City Council . The brief called for creative & contextual research with which to frame a ‘concept-led’ draft scope for the inclusion of public art & interpretation within the Winchester Station Approaches project. The client’s Architectural & Urban Planning consultants LDS Architects have developed a Masterplan Framework & Public Realm for the Station Approach site, which has since been made public & my work may eventually be embedded into this scheme or influence the final detailed design for the public realm.
As a creative research-led project I have set out to celebrate the City of Winchester’s rich cultural history by examining its use of specific materials, decoration & craft skills within its architectural legacy and built landscape, with a particular emphasis on Winchester Cathedral, one of the largest Cathedrals in Europe.
The Station is the Gateway to the City, once the Anglo Saxon capital under Alfred the Great. As a Gateway the Station and its surrounding external environment should be above all else welcoming. The public realm is required to deliver this. It can also give visual expression, via its landscape, materials and detail to what may be discovered by visitors moving beyond the Station. The Cathedral, for example cannot be seen when arriving by train, when, by contrast the Cathedrals of both Bath and Durham present their magnificent architecture from afar.
This is still early days in research and concept development. No doubt this project will shape-shift considerably along the way.
People come from around the world to visit
5 million arrivals and departures recorded
in 2018 –
What should this Gateway communicate about Winchester?
The Cathedral ?
Cathedral was founded in 1079 – it is an astonishing 940 years old & we can still walk around it in the
footsteps of countless others. The whole building was completed in the form we
see & experience today in the 16th Century. The spectacular Nave
in Perpendicular Gothic with Lierne Vaulting was completed in the 14th
& 15th Centuries. The carved oak Quire Stalls
were created between 1306 and 1309. We know who carved them & we know who
‘In the Christian Medieval world, this ‘arrival’ was rewarded through the sheer brilliance & breath-taking fusion of art & architecture as seen in the form of the Cathedral. This building was clearly at the heart of Winchester and England. It was the house of God and widely interpreted as the gate of Heaven, a world-renowned centre of pilgrimage, education & religious life’.
CONCEPT: to explore some the materials that built Winchester and, in doing so, reinforce their importance and role in communicating the cultural significance of the city. Rare & bespoke materials and craft can reflect this. These materials connect us to the past, the present & the future.
Manufacturing and contemporary methods – crafts fused with the latest technology.
Reflect the ingenuity and importance of the craftsmen & master masons of the age of Cathedrals. Illuminated Manuscript Illustrators and Master Masons were itinerant specialists – often travelling continually between great building projects.
I am also influenced by the on-going work to maintain and secure historical structures. Cathedral Masons repair and replace stonework. Over time, this must lead to substantial renewal. This concept of gradual change and renewal is of great interest.
For Example: Solid or monolithic blocks used as primary public art sculptural artwork benches within the current forecourt plan submitted by LDS Architects – with secondary barrier benches in another repeating style.
OPTIONS: creative thinking out loud ! Materials could include…
OAK – inspired by the massive oak timbers in the cathedral roof & bell tower and the brilliance of the carving in the Quire Stalls.
TOURNAI MARBLE – The beautiful 12th Century font – see below – sculpted from a single massive block of blue black carboniferous limestone, known as “Tournai marble“, was quarried from the banks of the River Scheldt’ & brought from Tournai in modern day Belgium. These were extremely rare and highly prized medieval luxury items. The natural stone is 135 million years old.
Bench Three: SWEDISH MARBLE – see below – this was considered an exotic imports from the Baltic states & illustrates the connectedness of Winchester to other places through trade and pilgrimage. This ledger stone is for Francisca Clobery, the daughter of Sir John Clobery. She died in 1683 and her grave is in the south aisle of the Retrochoir, in front of her father’s monument. Sir John was a 17th Century Merchant with connections to Europe.
Alfred the Great twice went on pilgrimage to Rome, the first time as a young boy in 853AD. I can’t but wonder if he had seen the Pantheon & the astonishing interiors of marble clad walls and polished patterned floors?
GLASS – The huge medieval stained glass West Window was smashed by Cromwell’s forces in 1642, but the fragmented remnants were gathered together and the window eventually restored maintaining the fragmented style.
CAST IRON – GUN METAL – Jewell & Son, City Foundry, between Middle and Lower Brook Street in Winchester was owned by the Jewell family and made components for the GWR Railways Winchester to Newbury Line. It was one of several iron foundries in the city. The coming of the railway and the ensuing Victorian Industrial Revolution brought massive change and population growth to the city. On each of the bells of the Cathedral it is recorded that it was ‘Recast by John Taylor and Co., Loughborough, 1937’. John
TERRAZZO – a fusion of fragmented materials with the
ARCHITECTURAL CERAMIC – Much of Winchester is built of brick and tile, with clay locally sourced and manufactured & fired often close to the site. The Cathedral has an extant 13th Century pavement of inlaid ceramic including many beautifully reproduced in the 1960’s.
GRANITE – Granite is not a historic building material in Winchester, nonetheless it does appear in various forms within the city centre. however, For example, the plinth for for the statue of Alfred on the Broadway (1901) is made of granite. Brought by rail from Penryn in Cornwall , at the time they were the largest blocks of granite ever moved – and processioned by steam tractor through the streets of Winchester – at the height of the second Industrial Revolution and Victorian pomp.
FLINT – a quintessential Winchester material.
These materials could be treated in the following ways:
could be cut, laminated and re-cut to present a geological and
decorative expression – using the latest manufacturing technology. Surfaces can
be inlaid, laser etched, sandblasted or textured to provide variety and
narrative. Objects can be cast, moulded or carved.
Lines & intersections within the general forecourt paving scheme suggest way-finding & direction but are also resonant of the magnificent Cathedral Lierne Vaulting, a high point in Gothic Architecture & engineering skill – the crossing and interweaving of stone vaulting providing the myriad crossing points and junctions for decorated bosses. Within the Station forecourt and approaches, these paving lines will intersect, at which point more focussed detail could be embedded in the form of robust but beautifully finished granite or cast iron units. These lines extend outwards from the Station Forecourt up Station Road and down Station Hill. I would propose to extend interventions and interpretive artwork in this direction to encourage the preferred pedestrian routes.
& Decoration seen throughout Winchester and fused into an
astonishingly beautiful form in the Cathedral
reflects the local & natural world of flora and fauna, alongside the
non-secular world of Christianity and faith. I am inspired by the brilliance of
illustrated manuscripts, such as the Winchester Bible & Botanical
Manuscripts held in the Cathedral Library and Archive. Fragmented details of
these motifs could be used to animate the forecourt and Gateway, but also to
give clues to visitors and locals alike as to what may be found within the
Secondary Barrier features nearest to the highway could all be in the same material – granite or sandstone. Reinforced concrete base structure could be stone clad or be used as an immoveable base / foundation.
The fusing of architectural styles, which
in turn create a legible & experiential timeline over hundreds of years in
the Cathedral is an on-going inspiration.
Conduited Water flowing under the City
Streams and Rivers and Water Meadows –
Communicate this concept – Beauty, architectural and cultural heritage,
technology, creativity found in the City of Winchester using a palette of
resonant and contextually intriguing materials, textures and narrative (tell
good stories!) –
I am also researching the following:
Brewery & Reservoirs on the Carfax Site –
business and inhabitants of Station Hill, Station Road and Gresham
Mill – A
700 years old Water Mill demolished in 1966 with massive oak timbers and cast
iron machinery made locally –
Winchester City Mill
Guild processions held on Corpus Christi by the Catholic Church –
Jewell, City Iron Foundry, Winchester –
William Walker – Deep Water Diver & Cathedral Saviour
Site specific and local details can reflect smaller influences – the lives and livelihoods of local people and what they did etc. It is important to acknowledge the whole community its diversity.
I am creating options for paving, seating, edges, retaining structures and kerbs – this keeps sightlines clear and reduces clutter in the landscape.
‘Purbeck marble was extensively used for grave markers and grave stones (ledger stones). Later, large black ledger stones of Tournai marble were very much in fashion. Of particular interest is the ledger stone of Francisca Cloberij (sic), the daughter of Sir John Clobery. She died in 1683 and her grave is in the south aisle of the Retrochoir, in front of her father’s monument. It is of a distinctive Ordovician limestone (around 465 million years ago) from the Island of Öland, Sweden, containing the straight-shelled Nautiloid, Orthoceras’. It is something of an anomaly, but intriguing nonetheless.
I have made several visits to Winchester to consult with specialists, with particular relevance to the Cathedral. I have walked the streets, and routes into the City and experienced the crossing points and have undertaken my own creative site analysis. I have ongoing research threads with the City and with a number of specialist materials suppliers and manufacturers. I have consulted with the Hampshire Archive Services and the Winchester City Trust.
I have meetings arranged with the Cathedral Archivist and Librarian and also with the Cathedral Stonemasons. If possible, I would like to collaborate with the Stone Mason in the production of one of the benches.
Working with Andrew Lapthorn has been amazing. We have collaborated really well. He has done ALL the hard work. His craftsmanship is of the highest quality. The timber elements he has contributed to the project are artworks in their own right and I can’t wait to see them all installed. I know for a fact that he has been documenting his process throughout the project and that he has some amazing images. I am really hoping to get my hands on them and bask in his reflected glory.
He did in fact let a few images slip from his grasp – and they are reproduced here.
I showed the image above in the last post, but needed to upload again so you can make sense of the images to follow. This shows a single plank of elm being bent to shape over the formwork. The radius laminate seat involves laminating and bending 45 individual layers of English Elm to create the final work. Each layer may contain up to 3 or 4 individual cut planks of timber. The effect of this is to create not only a robust and highly engineered structure, but a sculptural object with beautiful aesthetics, colour variation and flow.
Andrew is a furniture designer and maker. He has a workshop within the Historic Dockyard Chatham. It is almost impossible to consider the historic and social fabric of Chatham without the Dockyard playing a major role. We have consulted with Nigel Howard, Historic Environment and Buildings Manager for the Dockyard throughout the project and have been granted access to their archives and buildings. They have been very generous in their support. When Nigel was made aware we were proposing to work with Andrew on the project he made a very generous gift to the project of seasoned timber, free of charge from the historic Timber Seasoning Sheds. Nigel had also generously offered us some monolithic slabs of granite, which have great historic resonance to our project, which we have unfortunately not been in a position to use as yet – but never say never !
The quality of some of these images is poor I’m afraid, but the content is pretty amazing…the interiors of the seasoning sheds have an otherworldly feel about them. These buildings were erected in 1775, to provide the Admiralty with at least 3 years of timber. Andrew unearthed some massive planks of English Elm. The age of the timber was hard to discern. Andrew thinks it may have been here for decades as least. The actual tree or trees they were cut or salvaged from could have been well over a century old before felling or being toppled through the effects of storm damage.
As with all creative proposals, we have been through various iterations, responded to challenges and made changes along the way. The following images relate to this design and creative process and show the evolution of the work and some of the outcomes on the street.
In 2016, during the early concept and development stages of the project, I had proposed this series of benches as a way of exploring the relationship between the significant building materials of the Historic Dockyard and the materials and contextual ideas being explored along out project route through Chatham Town.
The Chatham Patterns were a significant part of our concept to develop a distinct and site specific visual language for the streetscape and our creative public realm work. I collaborated with Xtina Lamb, Printmaker on this work. In this instance, the patterns were to be sandblasted into the honed surface of the monolithic granite blocks by Hardscape.
Andrew responded to these early draft ideas and we discussed incorporating traditional techniques for creating large scale joints and methods for joining and connecting timber, which would be suggestive and resonant of shipbuilding in Chatham, as well as exploring advances in technology such as laminating and bending timber. These are his drawings – & his hands…
In early November 2018, FrancisKnight and I visited Andrew at his workshop to see progress on the benches. I was blown away by the beauty and craftsmanship around me. The English Elm has the most wonderful patterns and figures in the grain. There was even half a face staring our at me. We were really so impressed. The work was solid, beautiful, resonant and robust, which is just as well as life as a street bench is tough !
I couldn’t resist creating a mirror image – a portrait in English Elm.