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.
‘Medway Council successfully secured £700,000 from the government’s Local Growth Fund through the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) to contribute towards the £1.4m upgrade, with Network Rail match-funding the windfall through its National Station Improvement Programme’. Medway Council
This was great news to see this project being promoted on Linkedin this week by Medway Council. Following the near completion of public realm works and embedded public art along Railway Street and Military Road, including New Cut, St John’s Steps and Military Square, Chatham Railway Station is now about to undergo its long awaited regeneration too, at the head of our works as part of the Chatham Placemaking Project.
I made one of the first posts about Chatham Station on this blog back in September 2015 in the very early stages of our research and contextual work on the project. Click on this link for more information.
Many draft proposals and developments of conceptual and contextually based responses to the site were developed and considered. The final detailed designs for public art interventions were presented to Medway Council and their partners Network Rail in January 2018. This work dovetails with works already carried out and continues themes and material choices and finishes established at the outset of the scheme.
The following images highlight the proposals we put forward at the beginning of 2018.
A brilliant time-lapse film celebrating the Chatham Placemaking Project, by the Filmmaker Simon Williams was premiered on the Waterfront Big Screen in Chatham on Friday evening 6th May – and then ran at hourly intervals through Saturday 7th May –
‘A series of films will focus the eye and the heart and have clearly distilled a vision for the project – a reductive process of stripping back and looking afresh. Simon refreshingly admits he has fallen in love with Chatham – he has lived here for 15 years. ‘Chatham, Kent, England’is a remarkable 12-hour time-lapse work beautifully filmed from the roof of UCA at Fort Pitt. Standing in front of the Big Screen, the River Medway can’t actually be seen . The disengagement is clear. The film powerfully makes the case for Chatham to celebrate and acknowledge this enduring and symbiotic relationship. It could be an elegy for a Chatham we have forgotten but which is actually still alive and well and all around us’. Project Lead Artist Chris Tipping –
‘Chatham, Kent, England’, is the first in a series of films being delivered as part of the Temporary Art Programme supporting the Chatham Placemaking Project. They were commissioned by FrancisKnight Art Consultants and myself as project lead artist. ‘These are our Streets’, a collaboration between Simon and Rob Young, Writer, will be the second film in the series to be released.
The Chatham Placemaking Projectappointed 3 artists for the temporary programme – it feels anything but temporary to me as all the artists are contributing massively to the project and their individual and collective output in terms of film, writing and graphics has been creative, original and has added to my perception and understanding of this project – of Chatham – and how we relate to this community as well as our client Medway Council. It is an exciting time for me – & hopefully for Rob, Xtina and Simon too.
Simon and Rob have already engaged independently with the local community – calling in at shops and offices along our route down Railway Street and Military Road, building relationships with people. They have further collaborated on a series of short films, which explore and create a vision which underpins our project – the first of which we are hopeful will be given it’s Chatham premiere via the Big Screen this evening. Xtina is delivering the first of her print workshops on Saturday at The Pentagon Shopping Centre, which will encourage the local community to take part in simple printing techniques to explore themes around our project in words and motifs. Rob & I will be there too – collecting stories from people and hearing about their association with the town. Check out the Facebook page for more information on this event –
Xtina Lambwas commissioned to run a series of print based workshops in ad hoc places – such as the Pentagon Shopping Centre – and also from her workshop and business premises – Medway Fine Printmakers – at Intra on Chatham High Street. She is also a graphic artist in her own right contributing to the visual language and interpretation of the project.
The Chatham Placemaking Project is now on Facebook ! Profiles of the project team artists can be viewed and updates of works in progress and new images will be posted at regular intervals. Perhaps you could let us know what you think and support the project.
I was appointed as Lead Artist back in September 2015. We have now appointed three artists to work on a 6 months art programme running from March to August 2016. The artists are – Writer Rob Young, Printmaker Xtina Lamb and FilmMaker Simon Williams. Although each artist has a specific brief, we are working collaboratively to ensure that the creative outcomes can inspire and influence the permanent public realm works, which are due to be on site from early in 2017. The project is hugely exciting !
Rob came up with this quirky set of Lego figure to represent the artists !