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Posts Tagged ‘The Rickyard 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…

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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.

Around the Workshop – Best of 2015

Sunday, November 29th, 2015

Goodness me, I have been a bit lax with the blog over the past 6 months, but there is lots of exciting stuff to come. One of the main reasons there has been so little written is because we have been unbelievably busy designing, costing and quoting and quoting some more. Projects large and small have been coming in as fast as we can turn them around and we are seeing the results of that hard work taking shape now, with work going into museums, private homes, public spaces and major events like the RHS Chelsea Flower show.

2015 started as 2014 finished, with a run of dining tables and chairs. It’s funny, dining furniture seems to come in fits and starts, nothing for a couple of years and then, well the buses thing comes to mind… Perhaps my favourite set this year has been the English walnut lozenge table with a set of matching Gabriel chairs. It was made from a walnut log we sourced from a local estate and cut by our friend Will Miller on his Woodmizer sawmill. Although it didn’t look especially promising at first it did produce enough lovely timber for the table top and chair backs, with the rest of the set (table and chair frames) being made of subtley contrasting American black walnut. It was also the first time we had made a Gabriel armchair which we were very pleased with.

Left: Lozenge dining table and chairs made with locally sourced walnut tree. Our first Gabriel armchair at the head of the table. Right: Contemporary twist on a farmhouse table made in ‘Grown in Britain’ olive ash & elm.

The other table that stood out for us was as close to ‘rustic farmhouse’ as we get. Of course it had our contemporary take on rustic farmhouse but this stunning olive ash and elm table really looked a bit special. The top was made out of a pair of very beautiful wide boards of ‘Grown in Britain’ ash. Good news is I actually bought 4 so will be able to use the others on my own kitchen table next year!

We have spent time over the last few years developing relationships with top end architects and interior designers which has led to great enquiries and projects. My favourite of 2015 was a stunning burr walnut drinks cabinet for Anna Bilton Interiors. This was based on an earlier design we made in ash and burr sycamore. We had always thought this piece would look great in a darker timber and Anna gave us the opportunity to explore that. In fact we ended up making two similar pieces, one for the client in black and burr walnut and one as a speculative show piece in English and burr walnut. You can see more stunning images of this drinks cabinet taken by Double Exposure Photographic by clicking here and find out why it’s the piece I’d still make for myself.

Another theme for 2015 has been going back into kitchen interiors that are now a decade old and doing refurbishment work, in both cases this year because new owners were extending or changing the layout of the room. I always say to clients that we design and make kitchens to last decades, but the truth is the technology and appliances often start to look dated before the cabinetry does. Our very first kitchen was designed and installed on the edge of the New Forest back in 2003 and it was this one that unsurprisingly came up first. Although we discussed far reaching changes with the new owners in the end our changes were relatively minor, moving and re-configuring cabinets which is a testament to how good the original kitchen was.

The original fridge cabinet (left) with chunky retro handles and hinges has been refined and had new appliances fitted as part of a major refurb a decade on.

I don’t suppose it should have come as a great surprise that a few months later our 2nd kitchen was next for the refurb treatment. The major element of this one that needed attention was the large freestanding fridge / freezer cabinet. This needed new appliances and some cosmetic changes because the doors needed to be hinged differently. We also replaced some runners and hinges and generally spruced everything up. Again the design and cabinetry have stood the test of a decade well. This was a landmark project for us back in 2005 and has remained an important portfolio kitchen to this day. The new owners of this Surrey house also asked us to design a new oak and maple larder, so in the end the project was a good combination of old and new work.

The 2014 workshop blog round-up was dominated by two jobs, the first being the 75 oak desks and tables for the Makers’ Eye / St Hugh’s College, Oxford project. While 2015 has been relatively quiet on the newly named ‘Poon’ desk, we have made a number of these for Makers’ Eye’s private clients, including a couple of walnut versions which looked stunning. In late 2014 the St Hugh’s project won the ‘Wood Awards’ Bespoke Furniture category, in early 2015 the Makers’ Eye / STP collaboration also won a prestigious Design Guild Mark, this time specifically for the Poon desk. Tony Portus and I were photographed with walnut and oak versions of the Poon desk for publicity. The Desk and other items from the St Hugh’s project are available exclusively through Makers’ Eye website.

Tony Portus of Makers’ Eye and I with walnut and oak versions of the double award winning St Hugh’s College ‘Poon’ Desk.

The other job that dominated 2014 was our latest contemporary elm and walnut kitchen in Poole which has become known as the ‘Fire & Water’ kitchen. The project has only just been finished and we have finally got in to photograph and video the finished space. The new film has already been described by Grahame Morrison, well-known kitchen industry insider, journalist and blogger as ‘probably the best kitchen and certainly the best kitchen video of 2016′ and that was before 2016 even started!’

There are plenty more images and of course a full in depth description of ‘Fire & Water’ in our new case study.

Needless to say we think it’s the best kitchen we’ve ever designed, it’s certainly very striking with its two islands and walk in drum larder; the clients love it, both from a visual standpoint and as practical kitchen space. Although we spent plenty of 2015 putting finishing touches to this project we didn’t actually make any new kitchens throughout 2015, but we did design and quote on lots and i’m pleased to say we have confirmed 2 very exciting kitchen projects in 2016 and are still designing 4 others.

In a way it’s been a year of finishing off long-term projects. Our public art project in partnership with Adam Zombory-Moldovan of ZMMA Architects at the Rickyard is on a new Persimmon Homes development to the east of Shaftesbury. Originally born out of a 2011 public art project for the centre of Shaftesbury which fell away, we were able to use the research and development from there to create this installation. So 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! Anything to do with public sites, planning and development takes an age, but we’ve 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! 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.

We love working with Adam and the team at ZMMA, it’s a really dynamic and creative relationship which has also manifested itself in two museum projects during 2015. The first is for the V&A Museum, London. ZMMA were appointed to redesign the ‘Europe 1600-1815’ galleries. It’s been a huge project for them and although we have only been responsible for a small number of stools for the learning and resource area it’s still been lovely to have made work for one of Britain’s great cultural institutions. As always ZMMA’s concepts are really striking (and challenging to make) even on a seemingly simple stool, but the outcome is delightful and getting lots of very positive attention.

Top Left: The V&A stool is a striking concept by the ZMMA team. Top Right: Fitting the 4.2m display sideboard at the Watts Studio, Surrey. Above: The glass top Watts Display Vitrine, one of the most complicated pieces we have made.

The other larger museum project collaboration is for the Watts Gallery in Surrey. ZMMA have been working at the Watts for many years now but this latest stage – refurbishing Limnerslease, the house where Mary and G F Watts lived and worked for many years. We won the tender to create a couple of large archive display pieces in English walnut. The first is a 3 metre floating display vitrine with 4 glass sections and one lower display drawer. The other is a huge 4.2 metre long sideboard with further glass topped display drawers for artefacts from the collection. Both these pieces of furniture are extremely intricate, with delicate brass frames around specialist German made non-reflective museum specification glass. They are probably the most challenging pieces we have ever made. They look stunning though and as ever, the work we do with ZMMA pushes us into new realms and that is enjoyable from both a design and making perspective. Again there will be more on this project in due course.

News of another exciting partnership is taking shape on the garden furniture front. We have been busy making a new exciting prototype garden swing seat for Sitting Spiritually, due to be launched at RHS Chelsea 2016. There will be lots more on this very soon, we can’t wait to show you the new Sitting Spiritually ‘Simon Thomas Pirie Contemporary Range’. We have also made a few of our ‘Floating Benches’ this year and put them into some stunning garden locations. In fact ‘Floating’ already made an appearance at RHS Chelsea this year on Simon Gudgeon’s award winning ‘Sculpture by the Lakes’ stand.

Last word has to be about people and investment in our future. We are pleased to say that we have taken on a new apprentice called Tom Cornick who is progressing really well with us and on his Didac NVQ training course. He has fitted into the STP team like he belongs here, so expect to see him popping up in shots here on the blog in the future. 2016 is looking like a very exciting year, i’ll try to do better at letting you know about it!

Tom under the watchful eye of his Didac trainer Alex in our workshop.Tom getting watched over carefully on the circular saw by his Didac tutor Alex.

Public Art Projects – Shaftesbury

Friday, June 8th, 2012

It’s been a long time since I mentioned any progress on the various public art projects Adam Zombory Moldovan of ZMMA Architects and I have been working on. That’s not because there has been no progress, far from it. We have now completed the model and visuals for the Common Places project in the middle of town which was recently unveiled by Shaftesbury Civic Society to coincide with the launch of Adam’s new Shaftesbury office.

We also wanted it to be on display during Dorset Art Weeks. The High Street facing studio/gallery is a venue during the event, it should mean lots of people get to see it and comment. As well as that Common Places work, Adam is showing recent architectural projects and displaying a selected show of artists from North Dorset. There is also a set of our Torii Tables on display, as well as the stunning pippy oak pivot-hinge door and elm table we made for Adam as permanent features of the space.Commons#624FA9

What we are proposing for the Commons artwork comprises of various elements including twisted cast greenstone planks which form seats and surfaces to sit, stand, perform and work on. The other major form is a sliced ‘pebble’ made of slabs of timber from local estates, reflecting the towns market status and relationship with the surrounding landscape. At ground level stone text panels made of different local stones will act as directional signage from the Commons and also tell ‘Shaftesbury tales’; those stories about characters and places in the town that would not make the guide books, but somehow tell you more about the rich culture of a place.

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Commenting on the propasals, Jan Scott, Secretary of Shaftesbury Civic Society said: “Adam and Simon’s proposals show a real sensitivity and deep understanding of the town; to its history, development, geology, geography, its palette of materials and of course its people. Common Places is also a bold statement of pride and confidence in the future of Shaftesbury.”

The other public art site(s) are on the Persimmon Homes development at East Shaftesbury. The two projects are entirely seperate in terms of funding but linked by ideas, research and a broad desire to integrate this significant new development and its new ‘settlers’ to the existing town and population. Persimmon Collage smaller

How do you make those new residents truly connect to the town, its shops and people, and not just jump in their car to shop in the larger towns around it? A public art trail can’t tackle these big issues by itself, but making those visual connections can help to create links and a cohesive vision for a small market town like Shaftesbury.

So far we have had proposals and costings accepted for the 1st East Shaftesbury Persimmon site called The Rickyard. Actual work and installation looks like it will be in early in 2013. We are now looking at a much larger second site called Mampitts Square, effectively the centre new town square with shops, parking, bus stops and public seating. There are footpaths that connect these sites to the old town and further to the surrounding landscape. These ‘routes’ give us the opportunity to repeat themes, helping to create walking, art and tourist trails with the distinctive character that old and new Shaftesbury deserves.

The Common Places scale model is now on display at the new ZMMA studio and gallery at 54a High Street, Shaftesbury.