Our work in Sunderland on St Thomas Street was as part of a collective where the overall concept involved embedding art within the public realm rather than bolting it on at the end as is so often the case.
This seamless integration began with a radical underpinning strategic vision developed by Robert Slinger of KAPOK in Berlin, which is based upon the principle of meridian lines and pressure points, representing the key pedestrian routes and gathering points within the city centre.
In order to “cleanse” the meridians and allow energy to flow properly, all but the essential street furniture and signage was stripped out to allow a new fresh clean uncluttered street scene to emerge, punctuated with very visible node points where people naturally gathered.
These node points were defined through the introduction of bespoke light fittings with curious reflectors that threw slivers of light during the day onto the darker side of the street and colour changing patterns to the surrounding pavements at night. Bespoke furniture was also created, as was video projection which interacted with presence and at specific timings.
Another radical inclusion within the public realm was a 'soundscape', devised by renowned artist Bill Fontana, which gave a sense of the coastal situation that Sunderland enjoys (not something that many people know or appreciate).
The nodes or pressure points themselves afford the opportunity for performance and other activities to take place at different times, a high wall can be a pulpit, a seating arrangement can accommodate a string quartet etc.
The scheme was far more than the sum of its parts because of the
collective input which was carefully orchestrated around the underpinning
vision. This scheme is as unique today as it was the day it was conceived.
We were responsible for developing the lighting design aspects including the street lighting, colour change lighting and illumination to the furniture, working closely with the lead consultant KAPOK on the development of the bespoke lighting columns and integration of DMX controls technology to allow all of this to work together seamlessly.