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FIRST LOOK

Assemble’s Art on the Underground commission features 1,000 handmade tiles

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Utilising more than 1,000 handmade tiles as façade cladding, this project remodels a commercial unit at Seven Sisters Underground Station 

The project, named Clay Station, consists of the refurbishment and remodelling of a commercial unit at the entrance to Seven Sisters by Turner Prize-winning architecture collective Assemble working with artist Matthew Raw. The intention was to improve the station entrance, as part of the wider regeneration of the area, and help give a sense of identity and foster a feeling of warmth towards the station among the local community. 

Cueing off London Underground’s rich heritage and use of ceramic in its stations, the project involved the production of more than 1,000 handmade tiles. These celebrate the range and depth of design across London Underground’s network, including many earlier tile designs, with the focus firmly on the craft and delight inherent in their creation.

Tfl assemble 12 12 2017 31

Tfl assemble 12 12 2017 31

Source: GG Archard

During the project’s construction, a kiln was established on site for the production of the tiles, which facilitated workshops with local residents and community groups. The technique used involved colouring blocks of plain white clay with body stain and then mixing together different combinations before they were sized, rolled, moulded, cut, dried, fired and glazed. The resulting tiles formed from this process clad the exterior of the building, each one with a unique design. 

In collaboration with A New Direction and Create Jobs, Art on the Underground also established two traineeships as part of the project. The initiative was funded by Arts Council England. 

Tfl assemble 12 12 2017 08

Tfl assemble 12 12 2017 08

Source: GG Archard

Architect’s view

Our collaboration with Matthew Raw for this Art on the Underground commission has been a great opportunity to experiment with architectural ceramic techniques and designs, something which has a rich history when it comes to the space of the Underground. We were interested in the impact that a small corner building could have if it was brought back in to use after having lain empty for 10 years, and was treated with an extraordinary amount of care.

Assemble

Artist’s view

The colourful approach we decided upon came from an extended period of experimentation in the studio. As a result, each tile is a bespoke composition of different clay mixtures. It has been great to work with Assemble and bounce off different skill sets. During production it quickly became apparent that cladding the kiosk with this approach was going to be a labour of love, as each element is rolled and then glazed by hand.

Matthew Raw 

Client’s view

With this new commission at Seven Sisters Underground Station, we engaged with the community to restore a sense of conviviality in the area, supported by developing new skills through workshops for local residents. It is also an opportunity to enrich passengers’ journeys by focusing on a different type of building design to what they might see in their everyday commute.

Eleanor Pinfield, head of Art on the Underground 

 

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