Part 1: Introduction
To the many hurried commuters who pass by, whilst transfixed to their smartphones, Plantation Lane simply provides a convenient pedestrian passageway connecting Rood Lane, next to St Margaret Pattens church, to Seething Lane, opposite the main steps of Minster Court. It is however much more than just an alleyway and hangout for office smokers.
Due to its predominantly medieval street plan, the City of London has a network of ancient passageways and minor roads that interconnect with the main thoroughfares, and provide those that know them the ability to navigate the City away from the chaos of the busy streets. Plantation Lane has that same feel and purpose especially as it passes the north-side of St Margaret Pattens church, one of Wren’s post-fire churches of 1688, but was actually created as a new lane in 2004, as part of the huge Plantation Place development designed by Arup Associates and built by The British Land Company PLC.
Plantation Lane is approximately 108m in length, and aligned East-West, perpendicular to the two roads it connects. It separates the massive 15 storey Plantation Place North building from its smaller sibling, the 10 storey Plantation Place South, along with St Margaret Pattens church as previously mentioned, and in between those two the currently stagnant offices of 51 Eastcheap. Both the development as a whole and lane take their name from the former occupant of this site: Plantation House, built in 1935, which served as a commodities market for tea and rubber plantations.
But what makes Plantation Lane more than just another passageway is that its entirety hosts a permanent art installation called “Time and Tide”.
Time and Tide
Time and Tide was designed in a collaboration by the British artist Simon Patterson, a 1996 Turner Prize nominee renowned for his textual art, along with the architects and developers, to be an integral part of Plantation Place.
The theme of Time and Tide is a reference to the long and varied history of the City and of the moon’s constant influence on the tides of the Thames which ebb and flow endlessly over time. To express this, the artist has created two distinct elements:
The Time element is represented by a series of textual lists embedding into the pavement which follow a gentle arc along the passageway, charting events, people, places and institutions related to the City’s past and present. The lists are playful to follow as they alternate in orientation for each row, and some are incomplete as they are abruptly truncated when they meet the walls of adjacent buildings or the end of the lane itself.
The execution of the texts is impressive in itself, with the “positive” lettering hewn from slabs of cream coloured Jura limestone using a precision computer controller water-jet cutting process. Jura limestone is used throughout Plantation Place, for some sections of exterior cladding, and in polished form, as the interior steps and flooring of the reception hall. As a contrast, the lettering is embedding into “negative” recesses cut in the same manner into narrow slabs of a dark grey-blue stone called Pietra del Cardoso, a hard-waring meta-sandstone imported from the Apuan Alps in Italy. The font-face used throughout is Univers 55 Oblique, well known for its clarity and simplicity.
The Tide element is represented by a 41m long by 6m tall illuminated panel depicting a photograph of the surface of the moon. The colour of the illumination varies slowly over time and is a dramatic spectacle especially at dusk when the lit panel casts its coloured light over the passageway and surrounding walls of Plantation Place, and if raining also reflecting off the wet floor.
The moonscape is a reproduction of a photograph known as “Farside Terra” of the highlands on the dark side of the moon, originally taken from a distance of 1,600km by the Apollo 16 astronaut Kenneth Mattingly in April 1972, and had featured in a book called Full Moon by Michael Light from where it is credited as being reproduced from.
The image is printed across a set of 68 large translucent glass panels, each of approximately 1.5m by 2.4m in size, with 4 smaller panels completing each end of the structure. The glass panels are attached to a frame of aluminium, supported by steel uprights. The lighting comes from an array of colour changing LEDs set inside the top and bottom of the framework.
Part 2: The List of the Lists…
This article is continued in part two, which gives a detailed account each of the lists which are embedded into the pavement of Plantation Lane.
Please also visit my Flickr gallery for on this subject which features the images used in this, post plus additional images of Plantation Lane.
The following publications were used in researching this blog post.