In 2015, we joined forces with Architecture 00. Together, we enjoy collaborating in a shared environment where strategic, urban and social designers, architects, programmers and economists practice design beyond its traditional borders. 00 work with individuals, governments, corporations and communities to solve problems and anticipate change, and to design successful platforms and places. As a studio it aims to reach beyond the design of objects themselves to the social, economic and environmental systems behind them.

Deptford Plinths

Studio Weave were commissioned by Tideway Arts to develop a site-specific public artwork for the Crossfields site adjacent to Deptford Church Street, as part of the Thames Tideway Tunnel ‘Art on the Tideway’ programme.

The commission formed part of the Tideway Public Art Strategy and Heritage Interpretation Strategy, with the site located in the ‘East’ section of the narrative – entitled ‘The Shipping Parishes: Gateway to the world’. The Deptford Church Street ‘Heritage Interpretation Strategy’ (HIS) acknowledges the rich maritime history of Deptford, and its role in Britain’s Naval History - engaging themes of ‘exploration’, ‘power’, and ‘wealth’ in the era of empire. More specifically, the HIS identifies Mary Lacy of Deptford as a revolutionary heroine, her cross-gender guise as a male mariner representative of potent and relevant themes of ‘liberty’, ‘freedom’, ‘identity’ and ‘self-expression’.

Historically, symbols of collective idolatry - gods, leaders and high achievers - were enlarged to inhabit public space, to celebrate the common virtues with which they were associated. Elevated above the ground, the ‘plinth’ can be seen as a separative mechanism, removing the symbol from the mortal realm.

And, traditionally, the placement of the ‘icon’ was often grandly planned into the urban environment in ‘axial’ and ‘triumphal’ arrangements, framing prominent routes and institutions. More contemporarily, the framing role of ‘icons’ became less favoured than more nuanced ‘feature’ arrangements, creating focal points within pocket spaces. This proposal considers an integrated placement of the icon ‘amongst’ the adjacent street furnitures, rather than ‘apart’ from it.

“What is an appropriate public art gesture for a diverse, ever-changing neighbourhood with a rich and varied history; how might meaningful dialogue be engaged amongst a range of distinct communities that share the space?"

Contemporarily, the role of a plinth and public art – especially involving the celebration of historic figures – has been challenged more broadly. The plinth has almost vanished from contemporary public sculpture. The curatorial relationship between symbol, virtue, description and contemplation has almost dissolved.

A family of contemporary plinth variants was designed to celebrate five themes that emerged from a public engagement exercise ‘Searching for the Everyday Values’. Each theme is described in the words of local residents as recorded on the day:

- Heritage: ‘For Considering Our History’
- Resilience: ‘Dead Bolshie’
- Variety: ‘It’s Complex’
- Liveliness: ‘Good Spirit’
- Kindness: ‘In It Together’

Here, we consider a newly emergent ‘plinth’ no longer in a separative role beneath the artwork, but as the object itself. The ‘plinth’ becomes the supporting structure for dynamic and varied opportunity. Once again, a vehicle for the description of common value - ‘freedom’, ‘diversity’, ‘liberty’, ‘self-expression’ - now open to imagination, interpretation and inhabitation.

Where traditionally these high values might have been grandiosely centralised as the focal point of public space, we propose them rather as modest occupiers of the existing spatial structure of the place in which they reside. Neatly aligned amongst an avenue of trees, perched beside a bench, or resting in a meadow; these values are celebrated as a part of the everyday.