Stonewater Housing has teamed up with a specialist woodcarving artist to create a striking wooden sculpture for a new affordable housing development in Coventry. The public artwork is due to be unveiled as a focal point for the 39-home scheme in Tiverton Road, Wyken, in the coming weeks – just as the city’s UK City of Culture 2021 celebrations reach the halfway point.
Stonewater has worked in partnership with local construction firm Deeley Group to build the homes – 23 for affordable rent and 16 for shared ownership – on the former Dartmouth School site, which had previously lain empty for more than five years.
Woodcarving artist Graham Jones was also commissioned to produce an art installation to take pride of place on public open space outside the mix of two, three and four-bedroom houses. The resulting oak carving takes inspiration from the neighbouring St John Fisher Catholic Primary School. To reflect the local area and its history, the artwork is carved into the shape of a book featuring St John Fisher’s coat of arms.
Nathaniel Davies, project officer at Stonewater, said: “We are strongly committed to working with local communities to install public art at our housing developments which conveys a distinctive sense of place and promotes a sense of pride in the surrounding neighbourhood. This artwork sits next to existing mature trees, and we are also planting fruit trees in the area, so it seemed in keeping choosing wood as a natural, sustainable material for the sculpture.”
The piece, made from a single piece of English oak from a Worcestershire woodland, took Birmingham sculptor Jones 45 hours to cut out and carve. He said: “Oak is the most beautiful of native wood and this piece uses the natural growth of the tree to strengthen its durability. I also liked the idea of the sculpture being as if it had existed for decades, if not centuries – which of course the wood has, being probably from a 200-year-old oak.”
The housing development itself comprises timber frame houses, erected by Deeley Group – the company which also built St John Fisher Catholic Primary School in the 1950s and St John Fisher Church and Hall in the 1970s. Earlier this year Stonewater underlined its commitment to public art around its homes by launching the national George Blunden Public Art Prize.
Artists Bryn Hallett and Mark Rousseau, who run the Coda Workshop in Birmingham, recently 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.