I spent the first week of the year covering a lot of miles driving around the of Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire researching my current public art commission counties for Taylor Wimpey.
The site for the artwork is the new Taylor Wimpey housing development on Land off Bedford Road in Houghton Regis. This is a large greenfield site where several thousand houses will be constructed over the next 5 years. The Chiltern Way, a national walking route, goes through the site, and the Icknield Way, the most ancient route in Britain, runs very close by. Therefore I have chosen these two famous Ways as the theme for the artwork.
My idea is to reference the Icknield Way and the Chiltern Way by designing sculptures inspired by way markers in the form of standing stones. Both routes are marked with waymarkers, some of which are very old, and there are many prehistoric sites along the pathways, so standing stones and waymarkers provide an appropriate form.
The artwork will take the form of a pathway with structures positioned on either side in pairs. The pathway references both the Icknield Way and the Chiltern Way and will be sited so that it provides a pleasant meander off the main tarmac path running through the site.
The structures will be constructed out of quarried stone with ceramic relief panels inserted into recesses cut into the stone. I researched the local stone quarried in the area and found that the most suitable stone to use is Ironstone, widely used across Bedfordshire for houses, churches and many types of buildings. The only quarry actively producing ironstone currently is Great Tew in Oxfordshire, and I had fun wallowing around in the mud selecting suitable stones.
The design of ceramic panels will be based on maps referencing the two Ways and sites of special interest – historical, natural, architectural, industrial, etc. Approaching from one direction, the ceramic reliefs will depict sections of the Chiltern Way closest to the site, referencing well-known local landmarks. From the other end, the Icknield Way will be depicted with important local sites and landmarks along the route.
I spent the week visiting many of these sites, such as Dunstable Priory Church, Dunstable Downs, Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, the Tree Cathedral, Tring Park, Grand Union Canal, etc., many churches and libraries, gathering reference material and photographing places of interest that I will use in my design process. I also scanned sections of beautiful archive maps of the areas, as the maps will form the structure for the designs. This is the second piece of public art that I have used archive maps to create relief pictures in clay with local sites pertinent to the theme depicted. Please see my recent Tilery Housing Estate commission in Teesside.
I made a subsequent trip to run workshops with the local school which is located right next to the new development and the children had fun creating animals in clay inspired by the Natural History Museum at Tring.