Leading housing provider Stonewater has unveiled an eye-catching public artwork at a new development of affordable homes in Dorset. The housing association commissioned a local artist to draw on the area’s history to create the metal sculpture outside the 19-home scheme in Bournemouth.
Stonewater has developed the two-bedroom flats in Clarendon Road, Westbourne, to help meet the pressing need for affordable homes in such coastal areas. Built on the former site of two detached houses, the scheme comprises 11 properties for affordable rent and eight for Rent to Buy, aimed at helping people keen to make the move from renting to buying their own home. As part of Stonewater’s longstanding commitment to installing public art to create a sense of place and community, Bournemouth artist Gary Smith was commissioned to design and produce a suitably attractive but low-maintenance piece of art.
The resulting installation commemorates a period of local history when 19th-century writer Robert Louis Stevenson lived in the Westbourne district. The Scottish novelist and poet lived there with his wife from 1884 to 1887, around which time he published many of his best-known works including Treasure Island, Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Smith’s sculpture, entitled ‘Sailing Through Time’, was designed to blend the historical and modern eras with its combination of highly polished stainless steel and weathered rust-coloured corten steel. It depicts an old map scroll, a nautical sphere and an open book engraved with Treasure Island phrases and images, topped by contemporary-looking stylised sails in reference to the novel’s ship, the Hispaniola.
Smith said: “When designing the piece, I was keen to create something which not only referenced the area’s history but was also in keeping with the modern building behind it. So, my inspiration was to blend the old with the new, bringing the book to life for current and future generations. Hopefully, the families in these new properties will enjoy the sculpture and it might even inspire their children to read the book and discover more about Stevenson’s work.”
The development, supported by £827,000 Homes England funding, has been built to provide much-needed affordable homes for local people. As part of the scheme, there is a communal garden and bicycle stores, whereby Stonewater will be providing new residents with vouchers to encourage them to travel by bike. Stonewater worked in partnership with BCP Council, AJC Developments (South) and Macegreen Consulting to build the new homes. Two apprenticeships were offered, in carpentry and bricklaying, during construction.
Naomi Mooney, project officer at Stonewater, said: “There is a pressing need for affordable housing for local people across England, including coastal areas like Bournemouth, so we are pleased to play our part in meeting that need with these new homes. Stonewater has a longstanding commitment to creating a sense of place through public art which reflects local history while promoting community spirit at our developments – and the striking ‘Sailing Through Time’ sculpture achieves just that.
“There have been lots of complimentary comments about the artwork, not just from our new residents but also passers-by and other members of the local community.”
Stonewater underlined its commitment to public art around its homes by launching the national George Blunden Public Art Prize last year. Artists Bryn Hallett and Mark Rousseau, who run the Coda Workshop in Birmingham, won the competition’s £75,000 prize along with the commission to develop installations at five new Stonewater developments.
Stonewater is currently leading a significant housebuilding programme, aiming to build at least 1,500 homes a year from 2022 and presenting many more opportunities to commission public art for communities to enjoy.