Short and sweet this week, just like me. Public Art is one of those aspects of the planning and design process that most people just don’t get. Not all clients see the intrinsic value of this, particularly when forced into providing this by over eager LPAs at ridiculous cost during a time of economic constraints.

However, it is a valuable aspect of the design of new buildings and our public spaces. Whilst it tends to focus on larger development schemes it shouldn’t really be limited to that. When done well not only does it elevate a space or a building, provide emotional resonance, act as a wow factor or thought provoking aid, but it adds ‘value’ to a scheme, as does good design generally. It doesn’t just have to be a piece of sculpture, it can incorporate lighting, planting design, water, structural furniture, glazing, detailing on stone work. The options are as endless as creativity is boundless. Check out my PInterest page to see examples of what I think are great quality urban spaces, some of which do include public art either through stand alone structures or integrated elements.

I bet there are many examples of public art that you can think of that you love and appreciate for a variety of reasons. Just as there are many mediocre examples. Some examples that I love are the glass entrances to the office building at Temple Back, the Iron Tree at Arnos Vale, the water garden and water fountain in Castle Park and The Flying Man at The Ustinov Theatre in Bath.

Temple Back Office scheme with public art. Photo by Gingko Projects
Temple Back Office scheme with public art. Photo by Gingko Projects

 

Arnos Vale Spielman Centre and Iron Tree
Arnos Vale Spielman Centre and Iron Tree

 

Castle Park's water feature.
Castle Park’s water feature.

Good LPA Art’s Officers are right, public art should not be an add on, it should be integrated as part of the design concept for either the building that is being designed or the space around it. However in the current climate the provision of public art does have to be balanced against the range of other obligations required and where relevant the payment of CIL. So LPA’s also need to take a pragmatic approach to the provision of public art. But at the end of the day good quality public art shouldn’t cost a fortune, but it must add ‘value’ to a scheme and give something back.

As a humble planner I know little about the process of producing public art plans, shortlisting appropriate artists and procuring the work itself. So I tend to rely on the professional abilities of others when dealing with this part of a project. I have relied heavily on the knowledge and brilliance of Tom Littlewood’s team at Gingko Projects, based here in the South West. They have been responsible for public art at Finzels Reach,Temple Back, Broad Quay and the University of Bristol to name but a few. They make the process of addressing the public art issue straightforward. They work with clients and their design teams to produce a Public Art Procurement Strategy, identify suitable artists and commission and control the production of the art work. But most importantly they are just really great people to work with, that you can rely on and who know their stuff.

So next time when you are out and about take a look around you, see what art you can see, where it is and think about how it makes you feel and the ‘value’ it generates.