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‘Ghastly’ rusty fence public art for student flats will cost £108,000

Plans for a £108,000 rusty fence for Cambridge student flats has already been branded “ghastly” publ..

By admin , in Cambridge , at March 27, 2018

Plans for a £108,000 rusty fence for Cambridge student flats has already been branded "ghastly" public art by the ward councillor.

The fence will surround flats currently being built at the former West's garage site at the junction of Newmarket Road and River Lane on one of the busiest routes into the city centre.

The development will provide new accommodation for 219 students and consists of a series of new buildings, communal facilities, green spaces and squares.

Cllr Richard Johnson, who represents Abbey on Cambridge City Council and is in the Labour group, has already hit out at the design.

He said: "It looks ghastly. Perhaps those words can be inserted in waveform?"

He added: "Other sentences from residents which could be converted as a waveform on the fence: 'We never wanted this damn thing built' – 'The construction company has been a terrible nuisance'. You get the idea."

It looks gastly. Perhaps those words can be inserted in waveform?

— Cllr Richard Johnson (@cllr_r_johnson) March 26, 2018

Petrol and other potentially hazardous pollutants have been found in the soil and groundwater on the former Wests garage land off Newmarket Road.

The steel for the 'rusty' fence is expected to be "Cor-Ten”, which is unpainted and used in industrial applications such as railway coal cars, bridges and shipbuilding.

Artist's impression of the soundwaves on the fence

What the artist says

The money for the project comes from the developer after the city council made them fund and install the public art as a planning condition.

Artist Michael Brennand-Woods proposal, called Wavelength as a working title, is to create a decorative screen for the boundary of the site on River Lane, which will not only act as a practical secure boundary for the site but will also be an exciting visual addition to the area.

He said: "The intention is that the work will provide interest to both residents and passers-by. The imagery for the artwork will be derived from a series of workshop sessions with the residents of River Lane.

"Wavelength is envisaged as a flowing constellation of references and imagery that references the area's rich history.

"On a formal, practical level it will provide a low maintenance, decorative screen that creates security and privacy. I envisage the design as something people of all ages can access, an image that unfolds over time, slowly changing through the years.

"There are a number of overlapping references to movement, flow and the generation of energy across the site. These may be viewed in both physical and educational terms. The area also has a rich history.

"I was drawn to a use of words, descriptions and phrases that describe learning and the movement of water and people."

Site plan

What a resident says

Campaigner Richard Taylor, of Milton road, said: "Councillors of course have the final say over the proposals. Well 200 students are due to live in the accommodation which is being built; but in my view there are insufficient safe, direct, cycling and walking routes between the accommodation and Anglia Ruskin University's main East Road site; if I get the chance to record a contribution for the wall I might talk about that.

"Councillors should have insisted on more significant safety improvements for cyclists on Newmarket Road before permitting new student accommodation in this location.

"This is a £108,000 art project, councillors have required the money be spent on this rusty steel fence, and the associated public engagement programme and paperwork, rather than on measures to reduce the risks of injury and death to the future occupants.

"How will the proposed workshop, recording, sessions be publicised and who will be invited?

"I want to live in an aesthetically interesting city, but rather than bolt-on public art projects like this I'd like to see councillors demanding higher quality architecture for new buildings in the city.

"The idea of reflecting the area's history in the modern built environment is great; but the proposed graphic representations of sounds are no more than abstract shapes really; I'd go for something with more direct meaning.

"I hope what's produced will prompt the student residents to learn about the history of the area they're living in, and it is an area with a fascinating past, in particular as the site of the Stourbridge Fair.

"The recording of sounds to include in the "fence" as waveforms is just a scheme to nominally try and involve local people in the creation of the art."

How can residents get involved

The public art will call on residents to have their say and "encourage groups of all types to become involved in the programme including school children, students, local residents, local interest groups and others."

The planning application said: "Following meeting between the local resident representative and the artist, it was agreed that the Public Engagement Programme will have two main phases; the first of which will take place during the detailed design development phase, and the second prior to occupation of the accommodation.

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"During the first phase, Michael Brennand-Wood will present a talk about his work and lead workshop sessions with local residents, from which imagery will be derived.

"In these sessions, descriptions and anecdotes about the history of area will be captured, sampled as digital soundwaves and incorporated in to the imagery of the artwork.

"The workshop sessions will be promoted to the local residents through local networks and 7 groups, social media etc, and will particularly focus on the residents in the immediate vicinity.

"In the second phase, participants will gain an understanding of Michael Brennand-Woods methodology in creating his work and create works themselves.

"Michael is particularly interested in empowering people to share and understand how ideas/concepts are built with the aim of generating ongoing support for the work after completion."

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It adds: "In his proposal, the appointed artist, Michael Brennand-Wood has developed a project that links Newmarket Road to the riverside and reflects on the rich history of the area.

"It suggested a number of themes for the artwork including the history of the site and surrounding area. The strategy also called for a programme of activity that would engage local residents and others, which would help embed the artwork in the local area, promote a sense of identity and ownership."