Chatham Placemaking Project – A beautifully crafted thing…
Since starting the Chatham Placemaking Project, I am proud and pleased that much of the work we have done has been wonderfully crafted.
Words can be beautifully crafted to capture the essence of meaning, or a point in time, the spirit of a place. Materials too can be made to speak and assembled with care into something meaningful and poetic.
The writer, filmmaker, designer and poet with whom I have worked and collaborated on the project have all brought experience, originality, humour to the table, but above all they have brought an ability to assemble what they know & what they have created into a beautifully honed and finished thing – a sentence, a film, a poem, a pattern. These people are highly skilled. Andrew Lapthorn, a craftsman and furniture maker working from the Historic Dockyard has produced perhaps one of the most beautiful objects created for the project. His laminated Elm radius curved seat – part of a collaboration with me to create 6 granite and timber street benches – has now been installed at New Cut, Chatham, one of two radius timber seats.
Above: Granite & Timber street bench. Honed monolithic granite with stainless steel armrest by Hardscape.
Public spaces – especially those well trafficked, endure heavy duty wear and tear. These seats have been manufactured from robust and tough materials. This timber element was constructed from 45 layers of laminated mature English Elm, which was generously donated to the project by the Historic Chatham Dockyard from the equally historic Timber Seasoning Sheds. Each layer may have 2 of 3 individually sawn planks. It is a brilliant piece of work and very beautiful. It speaks loudly to me and is exemplary of the experience and love of making, which all the artists and creatives involved in the project have instilled in their work, often quietly and unseen. Andrew Lapthorn’s seat, encapsulates so much that has been done by us all in gathering our base material, spending time with it, mulling it over, discarding what doesn’t work, before finally committing to its final form.
Andrew has documented his work over many months and has given us access to the archive of images. Some of them are astonishing. Again, worth repeating, that his process reflects all of our various processes in various forms, making various outcomes. It is all about craft, mixed with experience, originality and passion. I will be making a longer post about this work.
I haven’t updated this post for some time – actually since April 2017! Head down and just getting on with it …time flies. OK – I’ll now try to sum up what’s happened in the interim.
Following on from the initial research period, consultation & creative engagement phases of the project, a series of Creative Public Realm proposals were submitted for review. This work originated and was inspired by the positive & creative collaboration with our supporting artists in residence, Rob Young – Writer, Simon Williams – Filmmakerand Xtina Lamb – Printmaker. These collaborations proved to be highly creative as well as bringing a refreshing camaraderie and friendship to the work.
The proposals are presented here in the order in which the various sites are encountered along the route from Chatham Station down Railway Street to Military Road and the Waterfront. This is a visual account of how ideas developed and adopted into the scheme.
Chatham Station, although at the head of our scheme, will be the last Phase to be delivered on the ground & I will report on this work later in a separate post.
The sites where our work and interventions has been focussed are:
NEW CUT & NEW ROAD VIADUCT
ST JOHN’S SQUARE
LOWER RAILWAY STREET
The Red Line indicates our project route & is titled the ‘Chatham Line’, after the Chatham Lines, the nearby defensive fortifications. The lines follow the historic granite kerb line & will be replaced in relevant sections by bespoke wide
granite kerbs and special transition granite units often with sandblasted or inset granite text. Text is based upon the surrounding local historic legacy & community engagement work & narrative developed by our writer in residence, Rob Young.
AREA 2 – NEW CUT
As with most projects, not all ideas and proposals succeed.Budget limitations, critical rigour and often the subjective nature of the collaborative creative process all bring issues to bear in deciding what is destined to be built on site and what is left in the studio !
The approach to the materiality and scale of St John’s Square & elsewhere along our route, was influenced by the architectural & industrial heritage of the Historic Chatham Dockyard.
This monolithic detail seen above was titled ‘The Submarine’, inspired by HMS OCELOT on display at Chatham Historic Dockyard . This sculptural form was to act as a dividing feature separating two flights of steps at different levels.
I didn’t make it through the final evaluation process…
LOWER RAILWAY STREET & MILITARY SQUARE
Military Square is a major pedestrian intersection in Chatham, at the crossroads between Railway Street, Military Road and the High Street.