Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Design a midtown habitat

We have just discovered that an open competition has been launched for the design of urban beehives, bird/bat boxes and planters. See here for more details. Don't be put off by the fact that the Architecture Foundation is running the competition, it is open to all designers. So where's your pencil ... ? Or maybe it's a photograph of something you have already built?

Monday, 7 November 2011


On Sunday 23rd October several families explored the gardens and galleries.

We looked at the project blog, to learn what other people's experience of the gardens has been over the year. We discussed what 'wild' might mean in terms of a place. People came up with some great describing words e.g. wonky, overgrown, spikey, dangerous, dense, deep. We agreed that these are special qualities that should be maintained in the garden.

We looked at a small sculpture by Haroon Mizra. He used a mirror to reflect a bisected green vinyl record to appear as a complete circle, the work creates the illusion of depth and invite us to imagine echoed sounds. Playing with green square and triangular motifs and mirror sheets, we created new shapes and deep, unending spaces.

On our way to the garden we looked at Nathalie Djurberg's work in the foyer. She had installed abstract swirls of coloured gels on the glass panels in the ceiling. As the sunlight changes it reveals magical, fleeting pools of colour of the walls and floor.

In the garden the fearless adventurers journeyed beyond the barriers to explore the wild edges.

Although we couldn’t see or hear any birds, we found some feathers which indicated a place birds might gather, along with a snail and a space we thought might be a fox nest. We used our mirror sheets as a periscope to view the contents of the bird table and as reflectors to create pools of light on the ground, the tree trunks, the garden shed and gallery walls and Ashley's jumper!

We gathered fallen leaves, twigs, feathers, berries and seeds, (like Nathalie we employed the sunshine) and produced sunprints. We identified the source of some of the leaves – in hawthorn, rowan, sycamore and plum trees.

We learned some of the varieties of birds that have been spotted by staff and made drawings which were brought together with real leaves in a collage of a wild space hosting a variety of birds.

We took this collage into gallery 3 to face and respond to Angus Fairhurst's paintings of uninhabited wild spaces before taking the bird drawings and sunprints home.

Autumn animations

Friday 21 st October Year 4 pupils from Holy Trinity School returned to the galleries and gardens to explore changes that have occurred since summer.

Birdsong from ashley mccormick on Vimeo.

Birds nesting from ashley mccormick on Vimeo.

Autumn session

On Friday 21st October Year 2 pupils from Holy Trinity School returned to the galleries and gardens for the Autumn session. Pupils considered the definition of a 'wild' space. Some pupils suggested it might be a space that nobody looks after - somewhere untidy - somewhere muddled - a messy place. We explored ideas about mess and order, making ordered patterns and random muddles with square and triangle motifs (inspired by the title of Haroon Mizra's work in gallery 3: I saw square triangle sine).

We looked at some patterns produced by William Morris, and the ways he uses repetition, rhythm, symmetry and two shades of one colour to organise motifs from nature including leaves, seeds, flowers, rabbits and birds.

In the garden we gathered lots of different fallen leaves and sunshine to make magical sunprints, which someone described as "ghosts of leaves". We looked for symmetry in the leaves and prints. Back at school the prints will be used to develop repeating patterns.

We listened closely to the natural sounds, including birdsong and wind rustling the last leaves clinging to the branches and practised mimicking these sounds.

In the gallery we marched around gallery 3 and performed our version of the garden noises adding to Haroon Mizra's soundscape.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Taking Root - Taking Part: Experts inspire

During an exciting, if slightly drizzly, afternoon of speedy presentations and short treks through the wild edges, our team of experts shared their thoughts on nature, wilderness and their experiences of the edges of the Camden Arts Centre garden.

The experts we invited were

Tony Canning, a Biologist. We invited him because of his interest in nature conservation. Tony is a seasoned environmental campaigner, which we trust brings a political edge to the project. He also works for the Wildlife Trust at the Camley Street Nature Reserve, which is an important local alliance.

Augusto Corrieri, a choreographer, performance artist and writer. We invited him as an artist of a discipline (choreography), which is about space, people, movement and sound. A practice of spatial exploration. All aspects of which we think will be key to a project, which will invite people to explore a space.

Petra Ungerer, a Zoologist, originally from Vienna, now researching at Queen Mary University in London. We invited her as we wanted to learn about the existing microsystems and creepy crawlies in the wild areas, how to see and find them and how to protect them and learn what makes them work.

Roberto Sanchez-Camus, a psychogeographer. What interested us about his discipline and work was his interest in edges and thresholds and their interconnectedness to a wider context.

Paul Lyalls, a poet. We invited him as we were interested about how ideas and experiences are communicated and put into words, an aspect crucial in disseminating aspects of a nature ‘trail’.

Before the date we asked interviewed each of them to get a better understanding of them, their interests and working practices.

Participants at the event were encouraged to share their experiences on the artist led treks, locating their experiences on a map of the site using.

The concluding discussion unearthed some thoughts by the audience about the wild edges. Several people were concerned whether permanent installations or even an actual trail would destroy the wild edges. They treasured its secludedness and feeling of enclosure allowing space for retreat and thinking.

We have come to the conclusion that an actual path might not be the appropriate response to the space. Perhaps a series of installations? Or devices? Would they be of temporary or permanent nature? What is their spatial relationship to the wilderness? Would they require people to enter the wilderness at all?

The brief for the day can still be downloaded here. We are keen to know about your explorations and thoughts until our residence in the drawing studio in spring 2012, when all research will be informing our proposal for the wild spaces.

You can also still see the little bug hotel Zoologist Petra and Richard of the Camden Arts Centre built as part of the event to welcome additional wildlife in the garden.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Collaborative Poem

Campers were inspired by the glossary developed by Paul Lyalls and the Taking Part participants. Their words and ideas have been brought together in a collaborative poem that celebrates the wonder of the wilderness.

Wild Edges

Deep dark wood

Chaotic protecting green canopy

Every Bug-Hotel is full, even the bee and bees have no room in the trees.

The wild corner of the garden where the magic begins

I feel invisible because no one is around me

Nice and quiet, away from the traffic of the city.

In a magical world of fairies and angels.

I walk through and it feels like an adventure,

The fairytales begin in the woods.

Leaf doors reveal fairies with graffiti spray cans of light

Golden sunlight through leaves

Sunshine glitters and dances on my face

I feel free because no one tells me what to do

Free as a wild cat

I discover the wonder around me

I discover all the world has to offer

I discover all the glory of the light that lights up our lives

Go fire-flies light up the way

Light and laughter is all we need

Green, green trees they give me lots of memories

Watching swishing trees by my side

The wonders of nature and how you never know enough.

Wilderness Camp-out at Camden Arts Centre

Thankfully the rain dried up as we welcomed our intrepid local families to camp overnight in the gardens. Poet Paul led some funny name games so we got to know each other.

We wandered through Mathilde’s exhibition searching for the moon and stories about night fall, sleep and dreams.

The brilliant builders Gemma and Llew from Made from Scratch led a very ambitious shelter making activity, as mums and dads erected tents. Tall sails, ropes, plastic pipes, branches and camouflage netting were lashed together to make a unique den.

Poet Paul led families on twilight treks through the wild edges eliciting written responses.

Grey and Anne Marie from Camden Arts Centre served up a delicious BBQ supper, before our young campers led a procession into the shelter to 'officially' launch the shared space with limbo dancing challenges! Tricky on a full stomach!

As the sun set we made a cluster of lanterns, puncturing the skin of hollowed out grapefruits with patterns and words and lighting candles inside.

We used torches to cast a ‘little full moon’ on the surface of the shelter and folded and cut paper to make ‘shadow stars’.

Equipped with glowing sticks and balloons, we trekked into the dense dark wild to make illuminated ‘drawings’ captured on camera.

Camden Art Centre’s own wilderness expert and enthusiastic explorer Richard (also the man with the coolest tent!) lit the campfire and the evening drew to a close with toasted marshmallows and hot milk. Following this everyone cozied up in their tents for a night’s sleep.

The next morning we shared breakfast and struck camp. Finally we saw the real moon in the pale morning sky! Bringing down the special shelter, tents and dining area the garden was returned to it’s natural state, but having experienced this place in extraordinary and thrilling ways, not least as a 'dreaming space', we will never look at it the same way again.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Taking Root: Taking Part

Saturday 29 August
2.00 - 4.30 p.m.
Camden Arts Centre Drawing Studio and Garden

Free entry.

We have invited a range of experts to explore and analyse the
wild edges of the garden at Camden Arts Centre.

How might this special place inspire scientists, architects, artists,
a choreographer, a psycho geographer, a poet ... and you?

Join us for an inspiring and active afternoon to share in their
findings and follow in their footsteps. Short presentations, opportunities
for discussion and different mapping activities will expand our experience
of this place in extraordinary and delightful ways.

Please book with the Bookshop on 020 7472 5500 or online at

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Memory and Mapping in June 2011

On Sunday 26th June, local families measured and mapped the wilder green spaces of Camden Arts Centre with Susanne from erect architecture.

Inspired by Kerry Tribe’s artworks on show in the galleries, we played memory games and made drawings from memory.

Looking at satellite photos and plan drawings of the garden, we proposed and tested new pathways for the wild edges, before measuring and mapping the real space. One brilliant proposal was for a path in the shape of a branch. It suits the theme of a wildlife trail and would adapt rather well to react to the wildlife on the ground (and above!).

Using barrier tape we ‘drew’ a big grid on top of the undergrowth and studied the area in detail. The grid allowed us to produce a record of the existing wild areas.

This record can be used by the us architects to design a wildlife trail, which suits what is there. You found plenty of things to take into account: Branches above your heads, paths (who would have made them?), fences, overgrown areas, mud, leaves, stones, creepy crawlies and many, many plants of very different sizes. We made wax rubbings of different textures and developed a series of 1:1 micro map cards (which ants or other crawling insects could use to find their way!). We used the 1:1 micro map cards to play a memory game together.

In the next session we will be camping overnight, exploring the wild spaces at twilight!

On Friday 24th June, Year 1 and 3 pupils from Holy Trinity Primary School continued their explorations of the galleries and the garden at Camden Arts Centre. The pupils were led by Ashvin, from erect architecture.

In the galleries, we looked at work by Kerry Tribe, who is very interested in how to make memories visible and material. She uses delicate materials and different technologies to record and display stories about forgetting, remembering and loss. In Milton Torres Sees A Ghost, the recorded voice of Milton recounted a strange event that happened to him 50 years earlier. We followed his voice through a long ‘path’ of audio tape stretching around the room which led to an ossciloscope; a special machine which ‘maps’ the shape of sound.

We tested our memories with a game using some lost and forgotten objects which were found in the undergrowth of the wild edge of the garden.

We looked at maps and satellite photos of the Centre, its garden and its neighbourhood, before making some imaginary paths through the wild edges of the garden, by folding paper.

Outside we mapped different things including time, textures, the size and shape of trees and edges, and conditions of the space, for instance where it is most dark/light, open/closed, quiet/noisy.

Our experience and recordings will shape new maps of and designs for the area. Research and making will carry on in the Autumn term...

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Sunday survey

On April 10th, local families began exploring the wilder green spaces of Camden Arts Centre with Ashley and fellow artist Stephen Nelson.

Families made special viewing tools for observing the flora and fauna.

Inspired by Pino Pascali's sculptures and performances on show in the galleries, we developed camouflage treatments for the viewing tools in that would allow us to connect with and inspect the wild spaces of the garden more closely.

The barriers warning of danger and advising visitors to keep out of the wilder spaces in the garden will be removed as the nature trail is developed. The families wrote down some questions they have about the garden and threw them into the undergrowth beyond the barriers, like curious seeds. Questions included:

Why are you green and not blue or red?

How long have you been here?

Are you really dangerous?

How many different plants grow here?

We look forward to the answers blooming and revealing themselves in the next family session in Summer ...

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Seeing whilst unseen

On April 1st, Year 1 and 3 pupils from Holy Trinity Primary School began exploring the wilder spaces of Camden Arts Centre with Ashley and Susanne from erect architecture. Pupils looked closely at the conditions of the space in Spring, playing I Spy, drawing details and devising list of words to describe the spaces - wild, dangerous, spooky, forest, woods, green, crazy, dark, scary...

In the galleries we were thrilled by Pino Pascali's strange sculptures. Pupils observed that the artist uses a mix of natural and man made materials. He enlarges and expands familiar images to giant proportions. But the giant 'spider' sculpture, the biggest we have ever seen, seems more playful than threatening because the artist made it with bright blue fake fur fabric. Pupils speculated that a giant 'mushroom' sculpture might house fairies and small woodland animals, and a steelwool net might trap wild animals.

Inspired by Pino Pascali's use of everyday materials and taking advice from the classic song - Teddy Bears Picnic, we developed camouflage disguises that would allow us to venture closer into the wild spaces of the garden, in order to see whilst unseen.

We didn't find any teddy bears picnic, but other surprises included ants, bees, logs, tiny buds, bushes and a 'mystery tree of the unknown'.

The research and exploration will continue in the Summer term...