Turner Prize-winning architecture collective Assemble and artist Matthew Raw will present Clay Station, a commission for Art on the Underground, Transport for London’s public art programme, at Seven Sisters Underground station from 14 December 2017. Clay Station is the refurbishment and remodelling of a commercial unit at the entrance to Seven Sisters Underground station which has lain empty for more than a decade. Building on London Underground’s rich heritage of ceramics, the project involved the production of more than a thousand hand-made tiles.
The project celebrates the diversity of design across London Underground including countless different tile designs which are found across the network. It also aims to challenge building practice which is commonly taking place in the city, instead placing focus on care, craft and the creation of something joyful.
Whilst the space was under construction it was equipped with a kiln to allow for production of the tiles on site. This also facilitated a series of workshops where local residents and community groups were able to learn the techniques used in the project to create small ceramic objects. The technique used entails colouring blocks of plain white clay with body stain and mixing together different combinations before they are sized, rolled, moulded, cut, dried, fired and glazed.
The resulting tiles formed from this process clad the exterior of the building, each one with a unique design. In collaboration with A New Direction and Create Jobs, Art on the Underground also established two traineeships as part of the project which provided the opportunity for trainees to partake in clay induction training, followed by hands-on making experience with artist Matthew Raw and members of Assemble. This initiative was funded by Arts Council England.
The commission is situated in North London at Seven Sisters Underground station. This location was selected for the project as the station entrance would benefit from some improvement – restoring a feeling of warmth towards the station amongst the community and as part of the regeneration in the surrounding area. On their commission for Art on the Underground, Assemble commented: “Our collaboration with Matthew Raw for this Art on the Underground commission has been a great opportunity to experiment with architectural ceramics techniques and designs, something which has a rich history when it comes to the space of the underground.
We were interested in the impact that a small corner building could have if it was brought back in to use after having lain empty for ten years and was treated with an extraordinary amount of care.”
Matthew Raw commented: “The colourful approach we decided upon came from an extended period of experimentation in the studio. As a result, each tile is a bespoke composition of different clay mixtures. It has been great to work with Assemble and bounce off different skill sets. During production it quickly became apparent that cladding the kiosk with this approach was going to be a labour of love, as each element is rolled and then glazed by hand.” Eleanor Pinfield, Head of Art on the Underground stated: “With this new commission at Seven Sisters Underground station, we engaged with the community to restore a sense of conviviality in the area, supported by developing new skills through workshops for local residents. It is also an opportunity to enrich passengers’ journeys by focusing on a different type of building design to what they might see in their everyday commute.”
Clay Station will open permanently to the public at Seven Sisters Underground station, London, from 14 December 2017. Forthcoming Art on the Underground commissions include a Day Tube pocket map cover by Marc Camille Chaimowicz and a Night Tube pocket map cover by Marianna Simnett.