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.
The proposals for the PCC Amphitheatre Steps and Seats are currently being considered by the client. In the meantime I am working up some drafts for the use bespoke highly detailed letters in a variety of materials ranging from granite and natural stones, to cast iron, enamelled steel, glazed architectural faience and Terrazzo. These letters will be fixed into the rebated text detail within the cast concrete seat riser, which will be 450mm high. Each bespoke letter can be 400mm high. The depth of the rebate will vary from 5mm to 30mm, however, the bespoke letters will all be best at 30mm deep, keeping them as robust as possible.
‘Under the Shadow of the Crane’ was initially an idea for a large scale granite ‘drawing’ to make up the pavement and public realm of the Crane Point site. Water jet cut granite slabs in two colours would form this extensive mosaic pavement, making permanent the ephemeral passing shadow of the crane, creating a physical memorial to the industrial heritage of the Riverside site.
Part 2. ‘Under the Shadow of the Crane’ is actually a reference to the whole of Rochester Riverside, as for much of its post 20th Century history, it was dominated and defined by tall cranes, loading and offloading from the various wharfs. However, a single 200tonne crane was retained & moved to this new position at Blue Boar Hard as a landmark and heritage beacon. Our journey for Phase 3 starts here.
Crane Point is the name for the public realm and viewing point under the shadow of the crane. The landscape has been designed by LUC as an Amphitheatre with precast concrete stepped seating and concrete paving extending around and beneath the crane. A large Apartment block is being built adjacent to the public space, which will look out over the crane and the River Medway.
Children swam from here…Blue Boar Wharf was our playground…
Crane Point – or Blue Boar Hard as it was called in its former life, is the end point of Blue Boar Lane, terminating with a Pier. It starts at its junction with Rochester High Street and the Blue Boar Public House (now demolished), leading under the railway tracks towards the river. At one time, the road split in two, with one track leading to the other side of Blue Boar Creek to James Hall & Son, Iron Foundry. Examples of their work can still be seen embedded into the pavements around Furrell’s Road. To the South of Blue Boar Creek, Blue Boar Wharf provided the river frontage for Barge Building. Up to 100 Medway Spritsail Barges were built here by William Higham. William lived on Victoria Street in Rochester and his wife had 9 children.
William Higham was also notable as a signatory to a fascinating document signed by 251 individuals connected to the Coal Trade Port of Rochester trading from Rochester Riverside on February 10th 1876 petitioning the Mayor and Corporation of the City of Rochester to review the state of the roadway of Blue Boar Lane, which was in such a poor condition it was compelling commerce to land at Chatham and not Blue Boar Hard.
“ We the undersigned Ship Owners, Merchants, Captains and others connected with the coal trade of the Port of Rochester hereby beg to call your attention to the bad state of the roadway of Blue Boar Lane leading to the River Medway and considering the large amount of traffic now going to and from the River…the present state of the road being such as to compel many to land at Chatham who would otherwise do so at Blue Boar Hard…” MALSC
Rather a lot of variations on a theme are drawn up – this is a process of discovery after all. I am often looking for something elusive. I don’t always know what I am chasing after or trying to uncover. Much of this work proves unsuitable to produce, or doesn’t fit the client brief (or budget) but nothing really ever goes to waste. Ideas unused are tucked away for another time.
The rebated letters within the cast concrete stepped units very from 5mm to 30mm deep. This allows for some expression and emphasis to be placed on certain anchor words, important for the interpretation on site. The large coloured letters are proposals for bespoke, highly detailed individual letters made of granite, enamelled steel or architectural glazed faience. These will be inset and bonded into several of the 30mm rebated capital letters, inspired by historiated initials of Illuminated Manuscripts in the Library of Rochester Cathedral.
I have had access to some amazing aerial images from Britain From Above. The following black and white images are so evocative and detailed, they tell a fascinating story of our site’s industrial and social history, nothing much of which survives today, except the large crane.
The above image from 1965 shows the Gasworks, Limehouse Wharf, Acorn Wharf (Shipbuildng) Acorn House, RMC Aggregates and Ready Made Concrete, Cory’s Wharf (Coal), Chatham Goods Yard (Railways), Blue Boar Wharf, Furrell’s Wharf – almost all the way to Chatham Intra. So much to be inspired by…
I am collaborating with LUC and BPTW who are leading on the architecture, masterplanning and landscape design.
I am continuing to develop the work I created for Phases 1 & 2 as the site has endless riches to be inspired by. My problem is knowing where to stop the research. Each stone unturned has golden threads to follow. Contextually, we are now on the site of Blue Boar Wharf, in its heyday a major Barge Building site, with two Yards, Upper and Lower occupied by two businesses – William Higham, ran the Upper Yard, where he built 100 Barges between 1876 and 1901 & George Weedon the proprietor of the Lower Yard.
Above: Gyproc Products (Plasterboard), started production on the Rochester Riverside site in 1933, just 3 years prior to this images from 1936 (the large white shed in the centre of the picture). Cory’s Wharf, with its ‘5 Cranes Dancing’, is in the foreground.
Above: The coming of the railways in the 1840’s effectively separated the town from its salt marsh grazing pastures and community centred around The Common. The Cattle & Livestock Market – seen bottom left in this image from 1936 has rooftop graphics – advertising its products – probably for the benefit of train passengers, as the track was raised on an earthen bank and brick viaduct. ‘Thorley’s Food for Cattle’, & ‘Thorley’s Food for all Stock’.
Above: This Postcard must be a very early image of the site, as there appears to be no industrial development of the Riverside site.
There is a great short film on You Tube called the Medway Dock Crane, which show the Blue Boar Wharf site and the whole of Rochester Riverside, prior to development by Countryside as seen from a drone. Click on the above link to view.
By mid-December 2019, a number of the bespoke public art units (5 of 24) had been finally installed into the footpaths and thresholds of new properties along sections of Common Creek Wharf and Thalia Way. These parts of the site were fully occupied during the weeks leading up to Christmas. I will update as more units are installed –
Above: You may just be able to make out the ‘5 Cranes Dancing’...just below the CORY’S WHARF text . These cranes were eventually replaced by 2 x 200 tonne Cranes, each capable of lifting 10 tons at a time.
‘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.
I had requested a meeting as a matter of courtesy, having visited the Cathedral several times previously during my research work for the Winchester Station Approach Project. It was important I met with Annabelle as I wished to discuss the possibility of collaborating with the Cathedral and particularly with the Stonemasons. Not only that, but I wished to know more about the Cathedral’s role in the community – an enormously broad subject, but nonetheless, one that I considered vital to understand the nature of its calling. It was of real interest to me to hear Annabelle talk about the Cathedral as a living place serving not only its faithful and local congregation, but everyone and anyone. A living and breathing building, actively engaging with and remaining vital to a worldwide audience in the 21st Century.
One outstanding calling is about welcome. In the Cathedra’s Calling and Vision document , emphasis is placed on welcome, access to all, hospitality and pilgrimage. The Cathedral Close is a haven for visitors and locals alike. The Station is also a Gateway to Winchester, so the same ethos ought to be present here in the public realm too, with an emphasis on welcome, and civic hospitality. A place of arrival and departure, a place of safety, a gateway and a welcome.
Marketing Manager Catherine Hodgson, then took me on a walk around the Cathedral and its outbuildings, including a visit to the stonemasons yard. Should the project progress to design stage, then I will certainly be advocating for a cross discipline collaboration with the Cathedral.
‘Sarsen Stones in Winchester’, from the website of The City of Winchester – these sandstone blocks, sought after as ‘markers’, are an inspiration for block seating at Station Approach…see below…
A number of industries, which Winchester supported, including Watermills, Brewing and Iron Foundries depended upon an immediate and plentiful supply of water. Winchester’s waterways brought wealth to the Cathedral.
Amongst these industries, several stand out as examplers –
City Engineering Works and Iron Foundry – Jewell Family of Middle and Lower Brook Street. Amongst other things the made components for the GWR Railways Winchester to Newbury Line. The family were also involved with Durngate Mill and the initials of Philip Charles Jewell appear on much cast iron work in the City.
My recent trip up to Hardscape at Logistics North near Bolton was a ‘more than hoped for’ brilliant success. This work was conceived with care, skill and emotion. I feel I can honestly say it has been manufactured with care, with enormous skill and equal amounts of emotion. This is what I want to be doing with my time! Achieving beautiful things, creating good work, working with great people. Focussing on craft and natural materials, on age-old skills of hand and eye, fused with technological innovation. I want to work alongside and collaborate with people who are proud of what they do and shout it from the rooftops. –
OK – so with that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the day’s outstanding work.
Above: My good friend, the ampersand. ‘WALRUS & NELLIE’. Unit size – 900mm x 300mm x 75mm. More ‘Tales from Rochester Riverside’…
Above: Details of ‘ADA & EDITH‘ , 900mm x 300mm x 75mm with an inverted ‘WALRUS & NELLIE’. at top. Unit size – 900mm x 300mm x 75mm.
Above: Details of ‘ADA & EDITH‘ , 900mm x 300mm x 75mm with a rectangular block of Carlow Limestone crisply laser etched with the name ‘ADA’ & inset into a slab of Porphyry. An inverted ‘WALRUS & NELLIE’ at top, was also sandblasted and inset with text – unit size – 900mm x 300mm x 75mm.
Above: Eleven of the fifteen units being created up at Hardscape are visible in this image.
Above: At bottom, ‘DUNLIN A SALTMARSH BIRD’, with water jet cut, inset, laser etched and sandblasted granite – unit size – 1200mm x 400mm x 75mm . At top, an inverted ‘GOOZERS & WATERMEN’ – unit size – 900mm x 300mm x 75mm.
The beautifully detailed DUNLIN in black Carlow Limestone is laser etched, then water jet cut from its slab and inset into the red Shiraz base slab. The letter ‘D’ is also water jet cut from green Kobra Granite and inset into both the red Shiraz and the Black Carlow, bonded in place with a golden yellow resin specially selected for colour. The letter ‘U’ and other visible text is sandblasted. This is highly skilled and complex work. Looks bloody amazing too…
Above: ‘GOOZERS & WATERMEN’ is no less complex, with water jet cut and inset text in Maple Red Granite, inlaid into a Black Carlow Limestone base slab, which is in turn sandblasted with text and laser etched to two depths to create the rippling water effect. See images below.
Above: The laser etched text ‘Watermen’ on the ‘GOOZERS & Watermen’, panel is wonderfully delivered with a deeper etch to the centre and a delicate lighter etch to the outline. This attention to detail and finish it what makes these bespoke units so outstanding.
Above: Detail of ‘SHELDUCK’, Laser etched bird motif on black Carlow Limestone, water jet cut-out and inset into a Kobra Green base slab. Letter ‘D’ is also water jet cut and inset. The other letters are sandblasted into the Kobra Green. Unit size – 960mm x 400mm x 75mm
Above: Details of ‘SHELDUCK’ & ‘PERENNIAL GLASSWORT’, just two of our 15 tales from Rochester Riverside. ‘SHELDUCK’, is a laser etched bird motif on black Carlow Limestone, water jet cut-out and inset into a Kobra Green base slab with large letter ‘D’ also water jet cut and inset. The other letters are sandblasted into the Kobra Green. Unit size – 960mm x 400mm x 75mm.‘PERENNIAL GLASSWORT’ is a red Shiraz slab base sandblasted to two depths for text and plant motifs. Royal White & Carlow Limestone letters have also been inset into the surface.
Above: Detail of some of the letters of ‘PERENNIAL GLASSWORT’ sandblasted into red Shiraz granite.
Above: ‘MARSH COWS GRAZING’..& other tales from Rochester Riverside’ is Unit No. 8 in a sequence of 15 bespoke granite units along with 9 bespoke cast iron units together create a story about the history and use of this site from Medieval times to the present day. The slabs are robust and heavyweight, adding a physical presence to the narratives they embody. The lives and livelihoods of Rochester people are represented here. These histories live on in stone and cast iron.
Above: Detail of letters ‘C’ & ‘O’, bot water jet cut and inset from Maple Red Granite and Porphyry respectively and inset into sandblasted Kobra green Granite.
Above & Below: ‘BLUE BOAR CREEK’ & ‘GOLDEN SAMPHIRE’, 2 more Tales from Rochester Riverside. Large letter ‘B’ water jet cut from Maple Red Granite, inset into Black Carlow Limestone with laser etched detail.
Above: ‘GOLDEN SAMPHIRE’ still has the resin bond material smeared over the surface…the cleaned up version can be seen below.
Above: The large letter ‘S’ is water jet cut from black Carlow Limestone, which has beautiful white shell deposits within its matrix., which are wonderfully contrasting when wet.
Above & Below: ’15 BARGES STARTED THE RACE’ & ‘RUSSET BROWN & OCHRE SAILS’. Both bespoke units exhibit great colour contrast and use of stone. Deliberate use of coloured resin bond to fix water jet cut motifs in place adds another dimension.
Above: Detail of the red Shiraz base slab with sandblasted text into which is inset a 2 colour motif with Maple Red granite and Kobra Green, fixed with a coloured resin bond.
Above and Below: ‘THE FIVE BROTHERS’ & ‘SPRITSAIL BARGE’, share a base slab of Porphyry, with sandblasted text and motifs. FIVE BROTHERS has the word ‘FIVE’ inset in water jet cut Maple Red, whilst SPRITSAIL has three letters ‘S’ ‘g’ & ‘L’ inset in Royal White for contrast.
Above and images below: ‘COAL – METER HEAVER WHIPPER’ & ‘WILLIAM CORY & SON LTD COAL FACTORS’.2 Tales from Rochester Riverside…
Above: Top slab – 1200mm x 400mm x 75mm – Crystal Black base slab with sandblasted text & water jet cut and inset Maple Red rectangle with additional inset text in Crystal Black. Bottom slab – 960mm x 400mm x 75mm – Black Carlow Limestone base slab with sandblasted text and motifs with water jet cut and inset Maple Red granite letters and motifs.
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. –
I’m travelling up north to Bolton this week to see the final units completed and hopefully sign off the work so it can be delivered to Rochester Riverside for installation. Can’t wait to see them all.
Above: “BLUE BOAR CREEK”…& other tales from Rochester Riverside. Detail of a water-jet cut & laser-etched paving panel in black Carlow Limestone with inset text of Amarelo Real (yellow granite) & Porphyry.
These new images are just in this afternoon thanks to Mathew Haslam of Hardscape – as their skilled stone specialists focus on the applied detail. Water jet cutting, inlaying, sandblasting and laser etching their way through 15 bespoke units destined to be embedded into the landscape of the new housing development at Rochester Riverside for client Countryside.This highly bespoke work needs to be handled with care and demands high levels of craft skills.
Hardscape have been excellent at providing this form creative collaboration. Public Art Strategy & Artists Commissions by FrancisKnight .
Below: This unit is 9 of 15 – ‘SHELDUCK’, a Kobra Green Granite base slab with water jet cut inset motif & text in black Carlow Limestone, which has been laser etched with surface detail. Further sandblasting of text into the green granite, will complete the work.
Above: The almost completed ‘WILLIAM CORY & SON LTD’.
Above: This is the base slab of black Carlow Limestone, which has been laser etched first & then water jet cut – but the large letter ‘W’, the ‘&’ and the diamond motif have yet to be chiselled out. See Below –
Above: The water jet cutting removes a series of lines from the granite, which are determined by the CAD programme, which creates the cutting paths. These pathways are interesting in themselves as patterns, but in this instance they have to be chiselled out carefully by hand, to create the void space for the granite inlay to be fixed.
Above: This images shows the void spaces chiselled out from the Carlow Limestone. The letter ‘W’ in Maple Red granite has already been inset and is awaiting bonding in place – the diamond motif is just about to be inset. These images are wonderful for showing process, craft and the mix of skills from CAD technology to work by hand & eye.