UR Feeling pavements and trees

To Camden Arts Centre for Simon Martin’s UR Feeling exhibition. ‘….an investigation into affect and the state between knowing and sensing, particularly in relationship to materiality and the built environment.’  http://www.camdenartscentre.org/whats-on/view/exh-24#1

Among his exhibits is a 1974 photograph by Stephen Shore of an urban street scene in Philadelphia, and two Eric Parry Architects models of their Paternoster Square building (2003).  The Shore photograph is arresting and rather beautiful.

Alongside a red fire hydrant, the rain-soaked summer street has some mature trees, and I couldn’t help making a quiet internal link with a project I worked on around 2000 with Eric Parry Architects. Steven Witherford, now of Witherford Watson and a man of engagingly boyish enthusiasm, was the architect. We managed between us to plant 30 or so trees running from the Lambeth roundabout down the embankment to Vauxhall, carefully avoiding the MI5 cables that ran beneath our York Stone by gently guiding the roots away from the digitized secrets they carried.

Twelve years on, the trees have fared reasonably well, along with the large metasequoia trees we brought down the Thames on a boat to plant on the roundabout outside Lambeth Palace. It’s hard to judge if any of us would do anything particularly different now – aside from saving the expense of running a cycle lane running across the roundabout: a folly arriving from the early days of new cycling money when mistakes were easy to make and cycling promoters more bullish than they were experienced.

Turning to the other exhibits, I couldn’t decide if I was gaining the state between knowing and sensing the artist was driving at. Public Realm folk can’t help trying to know, but manage to loose our ‘sensing‘ antenae more often than we care to admit.

John Roseveare 11th October 2012


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