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Opportunity for Artists: Wood Carving Commission for Bute Park, Cathays, Cardiff

Deadline: May 30, 2012

Opportunity for Artists: Wood Carving Commission for Bute Park, Cathays, Cardiff

Parks Services at Cardiff Council would like to appoint an artist as part of a wider package of proposals to provide play features that fit sympathetically and discreetly into the Grade 1 Listed, historic landscape of Bute Park. 

Bute Park is currently undergoing a £5.6 million restoration project, supported by a £3.1 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). This will restore some important historic features, provide new facilities and help tell the story of Bute Park.  As part of the project, sculptural play features will introduce young people to site specific ecological and historical themes and function as part of a discovery play trail through the park.

The project is commissioned by the Parks Service, Cardiff Council, to deliver high quality features that are durable, robust and fit for purpose.  The work will be completed by end of October 2012.
Artists invited to bid for this commission will demonstrate appropriate skills and an excellent track record.

The Site
Bute Park is Cardiff’s premier park, located in the city centre, on the eastern bank of the river Taff and described as one of the largest urban parks in the country.  The southern section of the park was laid out by Andrew Pettigrew, a significant gardener and horticulturalist, as part of the pleasure grounds of Cardiff Castle, which were gifted to the people of Cardiff in 1947, along with the Castle.  The southern end of the park acts as a setting to the castle with views featuring a foreground of the mature Magnolia collection.  The character of the wider park is dominated by the nineteenth century plantings of mature trees supplemented by the development of the Bute Park Arboretum. The former Castle pleasure grounds’ northern boundary was the walled garden, which was used for fruit and vegetable production for the Bute family estate.  The walled garden is currently used as the Council’s plant nursery with the recent addition of a Training and Education Centre and cafe.  Further north in the park, beyond the nursery are extensive playing fields and woodlands which form a green corridor from the heart of the city centre to its periphery.  The park has been co-listed, along with the Castle Green, as a Grade 1 historic landscape in the Glamorgan Register of Landscapes, Parks and Gardens or Special Historic Interest in Wales. 

The Commission
To design, fabricate and install at least five wood carvings that are large in scale, sit discreetly within their environment, and weather over time.  Other materials can be used as part of the sculpture but they should be robust and practical in terms of maintenance.

Themes that can be referenced in the designs include:

  • The Park’s arboricultural collections: including Hawthorn, Magnolia, crab apple, Oak, Alder, Acer, and conifer. The sculptural play features could, for example, reference the fruit, leaves, or seeds of individual species.
  • Orchard Lawn: South of the walled garden, the park plans from 1920 show a rectangular orchard area thought to be planted with mainly apple species with bee hives underneath.  
  • Flora and fauna specific to the park:

       -    Waxcap mushrooms, this rare grassland mushroom is known from only twenty sites in the whole of Britain;
       -    Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, a scarce and rather shy bird that breeds in Bute Park every year, probably in the SNCI woodlands. All three species of British Woodpeckers breed in Bute Park, an unusual feature in an urban park;
        -    Salmon and Sea Trout can be seen leaping at Blackweir during their autumn run. Since the construction of the Cardiff Bay Barrage the section of the river Taff below Blackweir has changed from tidal conditions to fresh water. It now appears to be an important spawning and nursery area for coarse fish. These attract fish eating birds such as Little Egret, Kingfisher and Goosander. Even Otters have been found to be feeding on this part of the river.

  • Old Man’s Wood: a mature woodland in the park which according to the Cardiff Records, ‘Coed yr Hen Wr’, (the wood of the old man) is first mentioned in a document of 1840.  It is possible that the ‘old man’ was a member of the Lucas family who resided in the Blackfriars’ farm house which was located close to the where the woodland is now;
  • Black Friars Friary: The Black, or Dominican, Friars established their friary in Cardiff in 1256, founded by Richard de Clare, son of Henry 1. The religious order was present in Cardiff from that date until 1538, some 288 years. In 1404, the friary was sacked by Owain Glyndwr, along with the rest of Cardiff, and the building destroyed.  The Friary is a scheduled ancient monument of national importance as it is one of the few friary sites for which the full building plan is known.  During the 1880’s the 3rd Marquess of Bute undertook a partial restoration of the site, and it is the Victorian brickwork that you see on the site today.

The suggestions listed above are not exhaustive and Parks Services at Cardiff Council are willing to discuss any other themes that the artist considers appropriate.

Additional information about the park and its history can be found in the Bute Park Restoration and Development plan March 2005, a copy of which is deposited at Cardiff central library or is available to download from the Cardiff Council website.

Constraints and Requirements
Issues for the commissioned artist to take into consideration when designing the artwork:

  • It will be necessary to liaise with the Council’s Parks department before any work is started to gain approval regarding dimensions, locations, specifications, maintenance issues and reinstatement of any damage caused.
  • It is intended that the five play features be distributed at various locations in the former Castle parklands and form part of a play trail.  Locations are open for discussion and agreement with Parks Services and will be influenced by the theme (s) referenced in each artwork.
  • Parks Services at Cardiff Council are looking for an artist to either design and fabricate the play features themselves, or an artist to design and subcontract the fabrication. If the artist prefers to design only, it will be necessary to show in their expression of interest that they have previously worked in this way or have already researched which fabricator they intend to work with.
  • Health and safety issues: Pre Construction Information will follow shortly to aid the installation contractor. A Designer’s Risk Assessment is required from the artist to cover items including fall heights, securing of the sculpture, weathering of materials, slipperiness when wet and potential vandalism. A Construction Phase Plan is required from the installation contractor – see attached guidance on how we assess it. Health and Safety considerations are paramount as the installation is within public open space and the features will be used for children’s play.  Any features which exceed 600mm in height will require safety surfacing which will have to be funded from the artist’s budget.  We would prefer green Grassmat safety surfacing (Safagrass or a similar product approved by Cardiff Parks - recommended supplier Technix Rubber and Plastics Ltd. Tel: 01489 789944 Fax: 01489 798866 Email: [email protected]) to be used where required to the relevant fall height and extent compliant with EN 1176.
  • Each play feature will be located within existing grassland and will require a concrete base for stability. The concrete base must not pose a risk to children falling from the play feature. To facilitate mowing and prevent excessive wear of the surrounding grass a minimum 500mm surround of green Grassmat safety surfacing (see above for details) should be installed around each play feature. 
  • Durability of the design and materials.
  • Vulnerability to vandalism.
  • The artwork should not have any costly short or long term maintenance requirements.
  • Accessibility for maintenance/replacement of components.
  • If necessary, production of a comprehensive maintenance schedule may be required.

A budget of £9,999 + vat is available for the project and is to include; initial meeting, research and design fee, any documentation including Health and Safety (from the artist and installer) materials and fabrication, delivery to site, installation, supervision and any reinstatement.

The deadline for the completion of the work is the end of October 2012. The proposed timetable for the project is as follows:
Notification of shortlisting – by Friday 8th June;
A provisional date for artist interviews has been set for Thursday 14th June 2012;
Notification of appointment of artist  – week commencing 18th June 2012;
Presentation of draft designs – Friday 24th August – followed by afternoon workshop with focus group;
Presentation of final design – by Friday 7th September 2012;
Fabricate and install artworks – by Friday 26th October 2012.

To apply for the project please send images of your previous work on CD as a Powerpoint or PDF document with a list and description of the attached images, a brief CV, and a letter outlining your interest in this project. The Selection Panel will consist of representatives from Parks Services and Celfwaith. Reasonable travel expenses to interview will be reimbursed.
Send applications to: Celfwaith, 7 Pontfaen, Cardiff CF23 7DU.
This brief can also be viewed at www.celfwaith.co.uk. For further information contact: Mererid Velios 02920750992   [email protected]
Please note: The commissioned artist will have to be registered as a supplier on the Council’s Alito system and the installer will have to be CHAS registered and also be registered as a landscape contractor on Alito.  Please see attached document containing details of contractors already registered on Alito.  To register on Alito as a supplier or landscape contractor please contact Ron Dimech at [email protected]

Deadline for applications – Wednesday 30th May