Site specific installation for Hadleigh Country Park, Essex
Commissioned by Essex County Council and Place Services
on behalf of RSPB and The Greater Thames Marshes Nature Improvement Area Partnership
with support from the Arts Council of England and the Olympic Legacy Interpretation fund, 2015
An underground camera obscura for Hadleigh Country Park, Essex
Commissioned by Essex County Council and Place Services on behalf of RSPB and The Greater Thames Marshes Nature Improvement Area Partnership (NIA) and with support from the Arts Council of England and the Olympic Legacy Interpretation fund, 2015
The idea for The Reveal evolved out of a process of research and engagement with the site and through working with local groups and the Park Rangers at Hadleigh Country Park.
On our first visit to Hadleigh, the route into the park did little to prepare us for the magnificent view that would reveal itself. The high vantage point overlooking the Thames estuary, makes Sandpit Hill an ideal observation post and it is these views which inspired the artist John Constable to paint the scene Hadleigh Castle (1829) nearly two hundred years ago.
Historically this site has played an important strategic role in defense and the World War II gun emplacements and ancillary buildings which are scattered about the site both above and below ground are evidence of this.
The development of the Olympic Mountain Bike Course for 2012 and the more recent adaptations of the trails have added another layer to this complex terrain. In contrast to these man-made interventions are the earth burrows and nests created by some of the park’s invertebrates such as the Shrill Carder Bee.
Our idea to create an underground camera obscura evolved from all these observations and the desire to harness this amazing view and reveal it in an unexpected way.
The shell of the camera obscura is constructed from a 3.5 metre long Weholite pipe, identical to those used in the nearby bike trails. This has been embedded into the side of hill and positioned to face out towards the estuary and can be accessed via a path which leads down off the main trail on Sandpit Hill.
Exposing the soil and creating banks during the installation of the piece was also designed to developed new habitat for insects such as the Shrill Carder bee.
The exterior facade has been constructed with durable oak and the ash lined interior houses a seat and space for around 4 to 5 people. The lens of the camera obscura is fixed within the door which needs to be closed in order to dim the light and focus the view onto the back wall of the tunnel.
The Reveal has been designed to be accessible for wheelchair users and provides the visitor with a contemplative space in which to rest and experience the landscape and vast skies in a different way. It reflects whatever is outside, so will by its nature always be changing.
As part of this project we mentored the artist Flisan Beard and worked with her and local community groups Open Arts and Rethink Recovery to facilitate creative conversations and explorations of the park using photography, land art and creative writing.
This culminated in the exhibition Scene and Sensed which was a celebration of this engagement and the positive effect that creativity and the outdoors can have on our sense of well being. This show was the inaugural exhibition for the new Visitors’ Hub at Hadleigh Country Park.
BELOW: DIAGRAM OF THE CAMERA OBSCURA PLOTTING THE CHANGES TO GROUND LEVELS
PLOTTING THE MOVEMENT OF THE SUN’S PATH TO DETERMINE ANY POSSIBLE HOTSPOTS ON THE BACK WALL OF THE INSTALLATION
HDPE PIPE DELIVERED TO SITE