Explore Braunton - The Most Biodiverse Parish in England

Artist Aspirations


The notion of public space and public domain is increasingly a problem, areas assigned for attention are increasingly designed and thought about in isolation to all that is around, consequently places are turned into mini private domains with ‘solitary uses and limited openness for change and time to be enjoyed’.

What we have aimed to do is create something that can be celebrated and enjoyed not for its magnificence but for what it reveals, what it allows to be seen, enjoyed and thought about: the site.

A space to observe the slow workings of the place around, something similar to squatting down in a field of tall grass, away from life around but very much present in the nature. The platform is an invitation to enjoy the every day where the processes of nature are evident.

How can a structure in the landscape activate intrigue in the site and the wider landscape?
Swan at Velator
The project was designed by looking at the nature of the site and the surrounding area, looking at the opportunities that already existed within the site. All the materials of the public space were already present. Our role was to open these up for acknowledgement, enjoyment and accessibility, not to change or suggest new ways in which the landscape works. The design becomes self-explanatory, not just about an aesthetic but is about location, appropriation, knowledge, skills and materials.

This place has developed for many reasons by itself. It has found its own sense, and now it can take on the role of illustrator of a specific environment welcoming what is around and people intrigue about such places.

It is not a viewing platform in the traditional sense, rather a series of experiences of the site. It is not about the object that we create, it is about the site itself. It is not a sculpture but a relationship between people and the site. We hope to create a process rather than an object.

The interventions are intended to become part of the site, visual reference points to understand and enjoy the site further, not purely through one sense of viewing, but through different senses and sensations, hearing touching, smelling, and seeing.

The interventions will change and enjoy the passing of time. They don’t represent a state but express a becoming. We intend to use the process of nature already in action on the site to actively create the spaces and allow a dialogue between the processes of nature and the interventions.

We decided not to make a sculptural object but instead, to use our knowledge about the public realm and the specialities of the people in the local and wider area. This was too direct a process, to bring together groups of specialists rather than adopting roles for ourselves, in order to achieve the most effective and professional result.

We consider our work to be about the Velator wetland area as a whole with its multiplicity of experiences. Our initial thoughts were that this was an area that was:

•    A wilderness in a village on the edge of a town.
•    Artificially built.
•    The result of the natural process of reclamation

It that it had become:

•    Increasingly different from what is around.
•    A pocket of untouched nature, because it is walled out.
•    An evaluative place for the wetland process.

Therefore, we decided to look at three different areas representative of the different stages of the wetland evolution and the different ways of exploring them:

•    Grassland
•    Waterside and its access
•    Raised view

Grassland

You can perceive the grassland area from the Tarka trail, to access you walk through the bushes, through the tall grass and brambles, bugs and birds, the ground is spongy.
You are in the meadow, and you can observe all that is around.

Access and approach is along the Tarka trail, with glimpsed views of the site much like at present with small markers showing human activity.

Construction

This site will be created by mowing a pathway from the old railway line regularly (to coincide with maintenance of the grassland), through to a square platform made of reclaimed wooden material (pier posts, railway sleepers) stacked to create a solid square platform to be used as a bench, a table, an observatory.
Using the viewing platform at Velator

Water edge, platform

Have you ever walked on grass thinking it was ground and got your feet soaked, that’s what wetland is about, plants taking over water.
With a view through you see the water, you walk through the mature trees and bushes, along the walkway, getting closer to the water, on the water level it opens out, you no longer see the Tarka trail, you are in the water.

Construction

Using traditional boat building methods, the main section of this platform is to be created from oak (from a self sustainable forest, 40 miles from Velator), built by local craftsmen.
1.2m deep and 3x4m square.

The walkway leading to the sunken platform will allow the change of level and be built in oak.

Dike / Balcony

This is an identified opportunity within the site, although not part of our original proposal, we wanted to encourage consideration about this space.
 

Construction

Through minor intervention such as posts to lean on along the ridge of the flood barrier a very simple invitation to the local community is provided encouraging limited access to walk along the edge of the wetland and view below.

An intervention as a catalyst for other events to happen?

Nowhere were the issues of site specificity more relevant than in the introduction of a new element in the public realm, let alone the introduction of an altogether new site for the public.

The creation of these spaces at Velator wetland is an opportunity to invite and raise public knowledge of the things around them and what they have on their doorstep.

We were looking to address a genuine public need and this was the forth element to the overall site specific design and in many ways one of the most crucial: the siting of the structures and the place within local and public knowledge.

Our intention was to leave questions open throughout the initial design stage, these questions could only be answered through the involvement and interaction of local people. We would like to be seen as the co-ordinators and facilitators of a process.
We wanted the community to be in every way inclusive in the process of this project, in the materials we sourced, the craftsmen we used and crucially in the way in which the design is introduced and accepted in the community.

We hoped to develop a more complex relationship between the place, its people, to smudge the boundaries through the sharing of knowledge between artists, agencies, architect and engineer, etc and ourselves.

The creation of the platforms should support and enhance the existing social structures: guided walks, talks, school lessons, etc, and where these are not in action there is an opportunity to introduce them. This is a slow process and should be brought about where there is a need, a want and an opportunity.

The next stage of the process should then include making public, all the gathered information concerning the place through an interactive website about the project displaying the workshops already done with the children, schedule talks on the nature in the area, etc. The art structures should be launched at the beginning of the process, supported by, schools pack, press pack, and exhibition material.

Identified groups that may use the platform and wetland area would include:
Local people, children, schools, families, dog walkers, cycling commuters, bird watching groups, tourists walking or cycling along the Tarka Trail.
Geese in Flight at Velator

Employing local business and construction

We intended to employ as far as possible local businesses, which also included the opportunity for work training schemes, direct involvement in building and documenting the realisation of the platforms.

Initially we intended to use local practices and materials to realise this project, we came to find that this notion of public knowledge, space and materials are obsolete, these are unfortunately symbolic illusions of local history.

What we intended to do was move away from implementing old skills making theme parks of the past, we needed to find ways to make hedge steeping, stone walling, coppicing, turfing, etc, relevant. 

Much of what is attractive about these practices is their interconnection to the landscape, through the time of year it is done, the local materials used, and the skills that are available. These are the qualities we have tried to incorporate into our design. In any instance where we are using these methods, we are proposing to make these skills relevant. We have focused on what is evident and unique in this landscape and in this community, what things and developments have gone unnoticed today.

Sans Facon       

 
explore braunton, the most biodiverse parish in england - a north devon aonb project