Some positive news in these uncertain times, FrancisKnight are delighted to announce that the Chatham Placemaking Project has been shortlisted for the Planning Awards 2020 in the award category for best use of arts, culture or sport in placemaking. This is a true recognition of the talented, creative artists’ team that connected, celebrated and gave voice to the past, present and future communities that made the Chatham Placemaking project such a success.
Medway Council were awarded £4 million government funding for Chatham Placemaking Project, a public realm scheme to regenerate a pedestrian route from the station to the town centre. Asequential route of connected locations and points was proposed with improvements at Chatham Station, New Cut Junction, St John's Square, Lower Railway Street and Military Square. FrancisKnight, Public Art Consultants were appointed by Medway Council to commission artists to identify and scope creative public realm opportunities along the route. They commissioned Lead Artist Christopher Tipping to collaborate with the design team, LDA Design and Project Centre, on design solutions that resulted in permanent public art interventions as a compelling resolution to the regeneration of the public realm.
The artist team was expanded to work alongside Christopher Tipping including Writer Rob Young, Printmaker Xtina Lamb, Filmmaker Simon Williams and Furniture Maker Andrew Lapthorn. Together the team developed a community engagement programme with artist led workshops, school activity and community consultation inviting local people to contribute their stories, share personal photographs and archive material.
The resulting work begins at Chatham Station with text embedded into the extra wide kerbs resonant of Chatham’s Historic Dockyard; this detail continues along the route. Seating, with timbers donated from the dockyard are placed at New Cut with historical and anecdotal text in the paving. A set of curved granite steps with wave step ends sandblasted with conversations and stories at St John’s Square open up the vista towards the town centre. Lower Railway Street has new street benches on improved paving laid in a herringbone pattern to reflect the tailors and outfitters that once traded in the town. Text laid into the extra wide kerb detail acknowledges a variety of retailers past and present. Finally, Military Square features an installation of 400 bespoke radius-cut artscape blocks of granite set into a 17m diameter circle.
The use of materials, historic, physical and social influences in the public realm has created a contemporary streetscape with a connected, positive journey that is bold, attractive and more convivial. Chatham Placemaking celebrates a sense of place with the community by embeddingtext and pattern with a mix of eavesdrops, stories and historic fact to create a play of words, which suggests that what makes a town, is the people and their voices - however small, quiet and ordinary.