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Great Kneighton artwork has taken root in the community

By Ben Comber

Andy Robinson, Senior Stratigist for Futurecity with the sculpture in Trumpington . Picture: Keith Heppell
Andy Robinson, Senior Stratigist for Futurecity with the sculpture in Trumpington . Picture: Keith Heppell

At the heart of the new community in Great Kneighton, a striking sculpture has literally grown from the roots of Hobson's Square.

The Bronze House stands almost nine metres (29ft 6in) high. Although not yet officially completed and unveiled, artists Heather and Ivan Morison’s composition has taken its focal point in the square.

It’s been five years in the making, designed in collaboration with landscape architects Place Design + Planning, and uses discoveries from a 3,500-year-old Middle Bronze Age settlement as its foundations.

Stockholm Tar applied to the chestnut timber will ensure it stands for decades – or even centuries – to come.

“Even when we had early design conversations we settled on about eight-and-a-half metres,” said Ivan.

“The idea is that the surrounding trees will grow to about that height. We didn’t want it to dominate that much, but it has to stand up to the building size and also feel in place.”

The square will be bordered by shops, homes and the Clay Farm Centre. It features rain gardens, now in bloom beneath the silver birches, and is bisected by a rainwater rill that the artists created to mark the Middle Bronze Age ditch line that runs through the site.

For now the Bronze House is a charcoal black, but over the years it will mellow and take on hues of amber and bronze.

“It sits really well in the site,” Ivan said. “It’s big enough, but not too dominating. The green and the white of the trees look beautiful against it.

“The footprint of the sculpture is from a Middle Bronze Age posthole arrangement discovered by Richard Mortimer and his team from Oxford Archaeology East... what could it be, rising up out of those timber postholes?

“What’s lovely about those postholes is that they’ve created these black cylinders down into the earth – the way they’ve rotted and how they’ve reacted with the material that has taken the timber’s place.

“This is the idea of these cylinders growing up to create a fantastical form that references the idea of buildings, but also something else.”

Andy Robinson, senior strategist at Futurecity – an agency which creates cultural strategies, brokers cultural partnerships and delivers major arts projects – has curated the project.

It began in 2011 and has closely involved Trumpington residents, who selected Heather and Ivan as the artists to bring a vision to the square.

“Heather and Ivan are brilliant artists – they’ve worked all over the world. It’s fantastic to support them to make an artwork here,” said Andy.

“There have been two conversations going on at the same time for Heather and Ivan: between the design team and with the archaeologists. They found these ditch lines and postholes in that conversation and said ‘That’s where we want to start’.”

The Middle Bronze Age posthole sites at Great Kneighton have no logical structure or shape, perfect for an artist to open up for interpretation.

Andy said: “Three Middle Bronze Age settlements were found on Great Kneighton. Lead archaeologist Richard Mortimer was very excited about this as at the time he’d only found one other across Eastern England in his 27 years of digging and research.

“Later Bronze Age settlements do start to have recognisable layouts, but the posthole arrangements and large amount of human waste materials found in these Middle Bronze Age sites make them definite settlements.”

Ivan added: “But there was no logical explanation for what this [the Bronze House] would have been. They were working to whole different architectural logic. With this building you think, ‘What was going on?’ It’s fantastic to invent that in some sort of way.

“A lot of our work is based on the idea of relics, but relics from the future. It’s meant to be slightly inexplicable. This is something that you have to work out what was going on with it, where it’s from. It’s referencing the past but it’s also got a future feel to it as well.

“There’s a big narrative with this piece of work, it links very closely to the site and our working with the timbers. It’s evolving.”


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