Wenlock Basin

London Borough of Hackney


Londonewcastle and United House

Principal Stakeholders

  • The community of people who use the canal tow path
  • Hawkins\Brown Architects
  • London Borough of Hackney


Plan Projects was commissioned by the developers Londonewcastle and United House to put together the Public Art component to their development at Wenlock Basin.


The dominant cultural theme within the project was the close proximity of the Grand Union Canal. In order that the work would be properly contextualised, artists were briefed to explore the identity, lifestyle and nature of the canal and incorporate this into their proposals for the site.


Of particular concern to the local authority was avoiding the notion that the public art work had been ‘parachuted’ into the environment along the tow path. Plan addressed this  firstly by asserting the importance of context when briefing the artists, but also by staging a series of consultation exercises over three days to gain the views of the public of the proposals put forward by Gordon Young, the selected artist. This allowed people to contribute to a specific aspect of his proposal: ideas for text that could be carved into the sculpture proposed for the site.


The vision for the commission was to create a striking counterpoint with their new building, a residential block with a powerfully industrial mood designed by the signature architects Hawkins Brown, and create a memorable landmark on the Grand Union Canal.


The commissioned artwork by Gordon Young is intended to highlight the contrast between the formal modern architecture and the folkiness of the canal barges. The subject matter is the most traditional of canal art: that of barges, roses and castles. The work takes the shape of a four metre high wooden sculpture (Roses and Castles) made out of oak.

The castle caps the column and is fabricated made from galvanised and painted steel. The work echoes the local barge community, the Narrowboat public house (the pub on the opposing bank from the development) and the metal sculpture on the opposite side of the canal.