Chapel Street, Oxford – Public Art Commission for A2 Dominion May – Sept 2013

Following on from completing the posted sculpture I have been straight into the next commission creating a wall mounted piece for a new building in Oxford.

This commission has come under a Section 106 requirement of the new development of student accommodation just off Cowley Road in Oxford. The brief was to create a durable wall mounted sculpture on the main gatehouse building that is on the road front of the development.  The walls that I could use were specified by the architect and the commissioners A2 Dominion also wanted me to work with the East Oxford Primary School situated adjacent to the development.

Working with my current theme of maps and journeys I thought the building could take a large scale work that was my interpretation of the River Cherwell flowing to the north of the City.  I spent a day with a class in school talking about my work and the pupils worked up sketches based on the river and maps and their recent visit to the river bank.  Part of their involvement was to give the new development a name.  In May 2013 this class visited my forge and gallery for a day.  They had a demonstration of forging and time was spent sketching and exploring the farm including a walk through the bluebell woods.  It was a really fantastic day!

The design work for this project was really great for me, I enjoy the research aspect and turning a 2D work into a 3D piece that works with the building and location and fulfils the H & S requirements and can be made to fit the building, on time and within budget.

The most challenging part was ensuring the metal art work could be fixed to the non-traditional brick-slip construction method – that each fixing hit a mortar joint and wooden batten behind.  I made a lovely slotted punch to use for this that gave me some room for error on fixing.

The design had some alterations to make it fit the building and has had to be changed as the building has been completed to miss added obstacles like vents but is very true to the sketch work I started with.

Melissa Cole East elevation Chapel St, Oxford Design  2 May 2013
The making part would be where I could add my own interpretation of river flow.  The section sizes ranged from 20 x 6 to 30 x 8 and each part was hand forged.  The whole 25 metres were broken down into 15 pieces that would fit in the powder coating oven and could be had fitted by two people on a scaffold tower.    Due to the construction method, the steel work couldn’t come away from the building face any more than 50mm; the weight of the drop wouldn’t hold on the wooden battening.  
The building also had many angle changes for me to accommodate and work with. 

The whole sculpture does have a rhythm and flow to it from the forging techniques I used.  The colour finish was important and has also been used in the entrance gates to the development which I suggested were designed to incorporate square bar uprights turned at an angle across the span. (the curvy design I did for these gates was a step too far!)  This has tied the sculpture to the whole development and I feel that the design of the sculpture works well in contrast to the vertical dominance of the architectural style and construction type.

The making element of this piece involved 200 making hours by myself and some help on site with measuring and fixing plus 80 hours on design development.  I am sure many people will not see the hand forged elements in this work; will not understand the process of forging and how it is as important to the work as the design itself.  
I know there will be plenty of people who won’t like it and have plenty of criticism for public art including this piece but I am really pleased with it and love the journey it has taken me on and the challenges of making and installing that it has thrown at me.
If you want to take a look for yourself, go to Cowley Road, Chapel Street just near Tesco and turn right.

1 Comment

  1. jhon on May 8, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    Oxford uni have experience Art Commission i have not seen that type of artist which is Oxford have they are doing unique art in accommodation…

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