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Placemaking: Art in the Public Square


By Morven Rushworth

Within the public square of St Modwen’s Kingsgrove development in Oxfordshire sits an impressive crown-inspired sculpture, a symbol of the site’s historic links to King Alfred. The sculpture is designed to interact with the viewer, giving them the opportunity to use its textured surfaces to create their own art through pencil or crayon rubbings. Further sculptures form an art trail, enticing visitors of all ages to get outside and explore their new neighbourhood. The artwork is brought to life at the weekends, with the area transformed by excited families gathering around the sculptures to create their own designs.

This is just one example of how art can have an important role in placemaking within new housing developments. Artwork in different forms can inspire residents to find a connection to their home, bring them together as a community, find their way around and understand the history of their new area. 

Artist, Kerry Lemon worked with children from Kingsgrove Primary School to design the crown sculpture, giving them a greater sense of ownership for the public realm and forming the basis for ongoing participatory initiatives with the pupils.

To support genuine placemaking and ultimate community ownership, it can be beneficial for residents to have a direct influence on the new artwork being installed around their neighbourhood. In a development near Ipswich, a Public Art panel will bring residents into the heart of the decision-making and design process, ensuring that the artwork brings the community together and helps to create a place that everyone can enjoy for years to come.

Community engagement is the crucial golden thread throughout these successful initiatives. If you would like to talk to the team about how we could maximise local involvement in your project, contact Gemma.

Placemaking: Art in the Public Square