ixia: public art think tank

ixia has taken over the ownership and management of Public Art Online from Arts Council England. The design and content of the website are currently being reviewed.

Bookmark and Share

Fairytale or Horror Story?

Urban designer and artist collaborations: what value do they bring?

A report from a one-day conference held in Bristol in May 2008 by the Resource for Urban Design Information (RUDI) in partnership with Public Art South West

Feather image by Wolfgang Buttress

Feather image by Wolfgang Buttress

Collaborations between artists and urban designers as part of a design team are generally seen as ‘a good thing’. But what is the real added value of these partnerships and how do they work in practice?

RUDI and Public Art South West collaborated on a one-day conference to debate these important issues, drawing over 100 artists and placemakers to Leigh Court in Bristol on 14 May 2008.

The event did not focus on ‘how to do’ public art, but rather aimed to stimulate debate and throw up challenges to what some are coming to regard as a too-often standardised way of creating public spaces.

From the start, delegates were encouraged to interact and get involved. Two boards at the entrance, of photographs of fairytales and horror stories in public art, were quickly filled in by delegates as they arrived.

There were a few surprises during the day. Many delegates were greeted as they mingled over coffee by a very dull urban designer who insisted on talking at length about his work in Portugal – he turned out to be part of street theatre duo Desperate Men, who had been specifically commissioned to act as catalysts for the day, encouraging debate and discussion.

Topics debated on the day included:

Can artists be involved in the strategic planning process?

David Cotterrell considered what artists and designers can do to prevent globalisation and whether there have to be some tangible ‘outcomes’ to an artist’s work. In a vidoe, he talks about his experiences as artist in residence at the strategic plan in Shanghai, and as a war photographer in Kabul.

How can we create magic, myth and spectacle?

Rob Aspland, Director of LDA Design is collaborating with artist Chris Levine on a plan to transform 3km of coastline in Blackpool. Inspired by the otherworldliness of Gulliver's travels and the strange landscapes of Japanese animated film, they have come up with a vision of a surreal dunescape, which is intended to become a playground for all ages. LDA recently won an international design competition with the Playground Project proposal.

The presence of absence: Where are the people in public space?

Diarmaid Lawlor, associate director of Urban Initiatives, says that places should be ‘centres of collective meaning'. In a unique collaboration, Urban Initiatives employed artist Natalie Woolf to work alongside their teams of urban designers.

How can artists and planners work together to deliver regeneration?

Urban designer Mark Luck, of North Somerset Council, and artist Wolfgang Buttress collaborated together on the Silica project. The final part of the £1m redevelopment of Big Lamp Corner in Weston-super-Mare, Silica is also part of a £11m improvement plan for the town centre called the Civic Pride Initiative. The brief called for ‘fully configured' artist-led design teams. The artists chose their own team of architects and structural engineers, and also later appointed their own choice of contractors. In a video, Mark and Wolfgangexplain the process of how they evolved the Silica project through finding common ground.

Are we creating a new ‘private public' realm?

Areas of city centres are being 'privatised' by developers for redevelopment into shopping malls, warned journalist Anna Minton. She said this is leading to the creation of ‘sterile, soulless atmospheres'. In a video, Anna Minton speaks more about this growing trend.

See the videos and further details on RUDI's website, http://www.rudi.net/pages/19698

Join the debate

Share your examples of good and bad public art: fairy tale or horror story?


(Requires temporary registration with the RUDI site).

 Fast Find

Go to specific information related to you.

 Editor's Choice

What's New

ixia update

 Join our elist