Phoenix art to knit city
Coventry is to have one of the most ambitious public art programmes in the country as part of the Coventry Phoenix project, designed to knit the city back together. Richard MacCormac of MacCormac Jamieson Prichard has masterplanned a section of the city, stretching about half a kilometre from the new and old cathedrals up to a park and the Museum of British Motor Transport.
Originally the project was to involve new buildings as well, but lottery funding was not forthcoming. But with £20 million from the city and the Millennium Commission for the urban intervention itself, MacCormac is working closely with Vivian Lovell, formerly head of the Public Art Commissions Agency and now running her own consultancy Modus Operandi. The aim, said Lovell was 'to work with the grain of the project' moving away from ideas of statues of local dignitaries and creating works relevant to the place. They selected artists locally, nationally and internationally by competitive interview to create works in and around the new spaces.
In addition to the works shown here are: a residency by local artist Chris Brown who is working with archaeologists; a piece by David Ward in a cloister, using blue light and sound from within pleached hedges, giving an oral history and narrative of Coventry; an area of 'contemporary maze' within the park by Scottish artist Kate Whiteford. Also, MacCormac, working with engineer Dewhurst Macfarlane, has designed a structure of two steel arches going into the main open space. Looking like two turbine blades, this is known as the Whittle Arch after local hero Sir Frank Whittle, inventor of the jet engine.
Above: French artist Francoise Cheil has designed a clock of world time zones to sit at grade level in Millennium Place. It uses leds which pick out Coventry (near the centre) and also its many twin towns. Below: the MacCormac Jamieson Prichard masterplan, which includes some areas of new housing in the narrow strips near the centre. The developer and architect have yet to be selected. The turbine shape of the 'Whittle Arch' can be seen at the entrance to Millennium Place
Above: the architect worked with engineer Dewhurst Macfarlane and with artist Alexander Beleschenko on a footbridge which leads from the major open space, Millennium Place, to a garden of reconciliation in the park. Taking off with what is believed to the longest unsupported spiral structure, the bridge is of steel, entirely encased in curved and patterned glass
German artist Jochen Gerz has designed two pieces: this 'people's bench' on the edge of Millennium Place, in which names of pairs of friends will be installed, and a 'future monument' in the park comprising a glass 'cone' with glass panels around it in which names of past enemies and of allies and friends of the city will be inscribed. The Henry Moore Foundation is supporting Gerz's work with £15,000
Susanna Heron designed this waterfall which has its exit and re- entry points contained within a wall, above a reflective pool. Her other works for the Coventry Phoenix Project also have an aquatic theme: an asymmetric pool which makes reference to a hidden river, and a rill that runs down steps. Landscape architect for the Phoenix scheme is Robert Rummey