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Posts Tagged ‘Persimmon Homes Shaftesbury’

Case Study – The Rickyard Public Seating

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

Rickyard Cover shots

Our ‘Case Studies’ are an opportunity to take a more in depth look at projects from a design perspective…

In 2011 I embarked on a collaborative project called ‘Common Places’ with Adam Zombory-Moldovan of ZMMA Architects, to research ideas for public art in Shaftesbury, Dorset. That ended in a rather ignominious heated public debate with an ex Lord Mayor of London, a well-known television archaeologist and an array of characters who played tennis together closing ranks to ‘save’ the town from modern art. Although in the end the ‘Common Places’ project research did not lead to public artworks in Shaftesbury Town centre, the ideas did take physical form not so far away.

We had been approached by Persimmon Homes through the project sponsors, North Dorset District Council and the Dorset Design & Heritage Forum, to look simultaneously at a site on the new East Shaftesbury housing development. This major expansion of the town had been contentious as they often are in rural locations. One of the many conditions of planning permission had been to integrate public art in various open spaces within the development to give the scheme more local character and individuality.

Initially we were asked to look at The Rickyard, a small open green space in the middle of a cul-de-sack of new 3 to 4 bed houses with a footpath running through the middle from corner to corner. This was part of an existing public footpath that connected the town to a network of roads and trackways (some very old) linking to other settlements and features in the landscape. It was partly this enforced juxtaposition of the new houses and the ancient landscape we were interested in exploring, but also use of local materials and the links to Dorset myths, sacred places and sight lines. We were really playing with the idea of sense of place and time.

The Rickyard had been ‘landscaped’ in the way that new developments are planted – rather contrived; but all these developments have to start from something – and it doesnt take long for these new spaces to become imbedded as ‘place’ to the people who live there. So our job was to add some intrigue, meaning, focus and of course, somewhere to sit.

When the project included the wider remit of potential sites in Shaftesbury town centre the plan had been to make links using public art between these old and new communities, highlighting the old trackways into the market town with objects, markers and words. Now as a stand alone site these resonances are more obscure, but nevertheless The Rickyard is still hopefully a place to pause and contemplate old and new, time and place.

In the world where cars transport you from your new home to work, or the supermarket, or a day out with the kids in comfort, arriving at a place is all too easy. The Rickyard is probably best experienced as a surprise encounter on a journey by foot, from the Saxon origins of the market town’s streets, through estates of houses from the post-war building boom, though the 70s low lying bungalows, the 80s red brick, the 90’s brown window frames, then finally into the latest offering from Persimmon Homes: The new ‘mini town’ with a ‘village’ feel and its patches of open public space (at least it has them), and this one has something rather different, even ‘unusual’ in it.

Perhaps what is here has resonances with an even more ancient landscape that is all around but is not always obvious; the hill forts, burial mounds, ditches and features that are prevalent in this part of the world.

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‘The Rickyard’ installation seen from the corners of the cul-de-sac where the public rights of way emerge into the space. The scorched oak uprights serve to mark the way across the space. Our proposals also incorporated a hard pathway through the seating but this element is yet to be completed by Persimmon Homes.

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These public space projects take time to come to fruition. For various reasons 4 years past from the initial ideas to final installation. The completed benches remained at my workshops for 18 months before finally being transported to site in late 2015. Apart from the lack of resolution on the surface of the pathway through the seating and uprights (it’s not mean’t to be grass) The Rickyard is very much as Adam & I envisaged it in the early concepts.

This kind of work is very different to the precision high-end bespoke furniture, kitchens and interiors that we normally design and make. But my first degree was in sculpture, so in many ways this work takes me back to my artistic roots. It is also a bit of an escape from worrying about getting a 1.5mm gap around a door perfect. This is chunky, organic and a bit brutal – split, scorched, bent, twisted and heavy! You have to work with the curves and the material – the oak logs are what they are in terms of size and shape and the design of the whole installation is defined by that. We had a lot of fun making these benches, but it was technically challenging and very hard physical work at times…

3 Logs Cut copy

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Adam Splits 3 copy

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Uprights Scorching 2 copy

The Rickyard is maturing nicely now from the stark and barren site it started out as. The trees and shrubs have already grown significantly and the new build houses look lived in and loved. As modern developments of its type go, it looks like a nice place to live. I can imagine that when visitors come, the seating and uprights in the middle of the green come up as a topic of conversation. The residents I have spoken to really like their unusual centrepiece. It is part of their ‘landscape’ and their ‘place’ now.

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Textures of natural weathered oak logs against the stark scorched uprights. The benches are tied together with a beautifully engineered and vandal-proof stainless fixings.

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Like other public seating and artworks we have done I really enjoy going back occasionally, seeing it mature and if i’m lucky seeing a bunch of kids playing around it or a family chilling out for a moment on a walk through the development.

Part of the challenge Adam and I both enjoyed with this project was working with a major house builder. It would be fair to say they were engaged in a rather ‘arms length’ way and would probably not have chosen to put public art works on the site if it had not been a condition of planning. Indeed on the other site we worked up proposals for on the development, Mampitts Square, nothing has happened! I suspect the outcome there may be rather ordinary and ‘off the shelf’ in the end. Despite everything though, the Rickyard project got built and we helped create a new ‘common place’ for Shaftesbury where an ex Lord Mayor of London, a TV archaeologist, a couple of tennis players and I could partake in a good chinwag!

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Children defiantly get it! It’s something interesting to climb on or play around.

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If you’d like to talk to Simon about a public art or seating project please get in contact, initial conversations and ideas cost nothing. To view our Tudor Arcade Public Seating case study click here.

To find the Rickyard yourself and explore old and new Shaftesbury click here for the Dorset Explorer map.

Most images in this Case Study were taken by Double Exposure Photographic

Shaftesbury Rickyard Seating Project

Monday, November 30th, 2015

It’s been a long time coming, but our public art / seating project in partnership with Adam Zombory-Moldovan of ZMMA Architects at the Rickyard has now been installed. It’s located on the new Persimmon Homes development to the east of Shaftesbury in Dorset.

We really enjoy working with Adam and the team at ZMMA, it’s a very dynamic and creative partnership which is also currently finding expression in the form of furniture for two high-profile museum projects – at the V&A in London and the Watts Gallery near Guildford. You can read more about these in the Best of 2015 Workshop Round-Up.

The Rickyard was originally born out of a 2011 public art project for the centre of Shaftesbury which fell away, luckily we were able to use many of the ideas, research and development from there to create this installation. It’s taken over 4 years from concept to completion, with the curved log benches and uprights having been stored in my yard for the last 2 years! We know anything to do with public sites, planning and development takes an age, and we have got used to a variety of projects moving through the workshop schedule at very different speeds. However, 4 years+ is probably the record so far!

There is still work to do, with a new pathway through the benches and uprights being laid before the site is complete, but you get a good idea of what it will look like now. The installation sits in the centre of a green space surrounded by newly built homes. Although it’s hard to tell at first glance, a public footpath runs through the square from corner to corner across the diagonal. The benches and scorched oak uprights provide both a sight-line through and a visual focus in the middle of this modern square. This part of North Dorset is a landscape full of ancient places and pathways, before the houses were built many were visible from the Rickyard, so perhaps this is our way to link the old world with the new.

There will be a full design case study once final images are taken and the works are complete – watch this blog. In the meantime you can read more about The Rickyard and the other Shaftesbury public art projects by clicking here.

After 4 years in the development and design process the ZMMA / STP ‘Rickyard’ project has finally been installed on site. Just some pathway work and landscaping to complete now.

Shaftesbury Public Art Projects

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

Of the 3 Shaftesbury public art projects I’m working on with Adam Zombory-Moldovan from ZMMA Architects, one has ground to a halt, one is in the design and planning stages and the last is actually physically underway. So, all in all, pretty good.

‘Common Places’, the first of these projects in Shaftesbury town centre has hit some well organised vocal opposition. We are still listening to views and reviewing where we go with this project, but it is certainly not dead and buried from our perspective. The project also has lots of support from high places and perhaps most importantly from young people in Shaftesbury – 72% of children polled in Shaftesbury School liked the scheme when Jan Scott of Shaftesbury Civic Society presented the ideas earlier this year.

I’ve said before good Public Art will never gain unanimoius support, by it’s nature it should be challenging in some way. Saying that I don’t think anything in the Common Places proposals is particularly radical and I fail to see what all the fuss is about. This has included requests for documents regarding the brief and artist selection proceedure from Dorset County Council through the Freedom of Information Act. It’s hardly top secret information that will threaten national security. Perhaps some people just have too much time on their hands!

The other two projects relate to the work we are doing with Persimmon Homes on the new East Shaftesbury development. Mampitts Square, in the middle of the development, is still in the early stages of design, consultation and planning. I’m looking forward to showing the concepts of this exciting project very soon once planning has been granted. It’s fantastic that a big housing developer like Persimmon are incorporating Public Art at the core of their ideas and are showing some real open mindedness about the ideas.

This week my focus has been on the first Persimmon Homes project though – The Rickyard. This had been held up for a year, partly related to the speed of building and selling houses through a recession, but the green space and surrounding houses are now in the final stages of completion.

The Rickyard (above) will see the installation of our curved sliced oak seating in the early Autumn. For me this is a really exciting project and a return back to my artistic roots. I trained as a sculptor before moving into furniture design, this project bridges both disciplines in a very creative way. It was very odd going out specifically to find logs that were twisted and bent, usually I’m looking for faultless straight butts for the furniture projects. This was more akin to the kind of wood shipbuilders looked for hull frames with a natural curve to work with. Nowadays this stuff tends to be firewood, so from an environmental perspective it’s very satisfying.

I spent a hot Friday working with Will Miller, my aptly named chainsaw and wood-milling ace making sure what we proposed is actually possible. What we needed to achieve was to slice off parallel top and bottom surfaces of the length of the log – after selecting the best sides (more tricky than you might think on a 3 dimensionally twisted log that weighs a tonne!). This was done with an Alaskan Chainsaw mill – a huge chainsaw suspended from a parallel frame, in this case a fixed softwood plank. We ended up with a log with two flat faces 325mm apart.

Once we had done that we had to test the vertical chainsaw cuts, potentially the most difficult and dangerous part. We have to create accurate jigs that guide the vertically suspended chainsaw to follow the natural curved shape of the log. We needed this to create a clean cut and after lots of set up changes we made a first perfect slice through the smallest of the logs. Every log will require 6 to 7 of these vertical cuts, in effect creating the optical illusion of a curving vertically sliced stack of wood. You can never tell how a day like this is going to go, we got less done than expected but somehow learnt stuff that will get us further along next time. We’ve got another 3 days scheduled with Will for the log work.

I’m really beginning to believe the final pieces will look just like the visuals now, very exciting! There will be more over the next weeks as the Rickyard Project takes shape.