The Station Plaza at Cambridge Station, is noted for finely detailed buildings, discreet brick work, tiled elements, intricately laced balcony treatments which are subtle and tasteful. It’s also noted for being bland and having lost the impact of arriving at a particular destination. There is no sense of arrival in Cambridge.
As the redevelopment reaches its conclusion, there is a void. It is a box without tricks and the public art is an unconnected series of pieces that are mostly invisible to people passing through. Artworks that invite interaction give that element of surprise and fun that make a journey positively memorable. The public art here is a series of pieces that need signposting. The artworks are so quiet, so subtle that they are obscure and ignored.
Just because art is outdoors or in a public place, does not necessarily make it accessible. The point or success is however, judged by the public. Does it reflect local identity? Does it create a sense of place? Does it perhaps reference an historical connection? In a civic space there is an opportunity for artworks to comment, to make statements about who we are, where we are, and to reflect what we are about.
As far as referencing the history of the area, the historic ‘Ceres’ bronze by William Boyd was renovated following its re-discovery in Spillers Mill. The renovation of the Mill is one of the most successful, combining the form of the industrial building with a streamlined street scene that complements the surrounding new architecture and the station building itself. The ‘Ceres’ sculpture however, is rather isolated located in a courtyard to the rear of the building.
To the front, Dryden Goodwin has a series of portraits, embedded in the pavement around the bus stops. The miniature portraits etched into stainless steel discs, the material has
the appearance of service covers, and most people queuing at the bus-stops are unaware that they are there. This isn’t surprising as it’s difficult to get close enough to see the portraits without causing a trip hazard. There is a mismatch of design elements, material, scale and location that is disappointing.
‘Continental Drift’ by Troika, is not very public installed in the entrance to the cycle park. Antoni Malinowski’s ‘Transparent Drawing’ – located on an elevation opposite the bus stops is well above eye level, too discrete to catch the attention. The less said about Jem Finer’s ‘Super Computer’ the better.
The curved bench by Partridge and Walmsley is the most successful piece to date. Elegant and functional. It’s a high status bench in an area where seating is really quite limited.
Doug Alsop’s ‘Reflective Editor’ is a geometrical work designed as a gateway piece. The highly polished surfaces reflect the form and movement around it. It invites interaction but is most useful as a perch seat and closely resembles an architectural design element. How many people notice it as an artwork is debatable.
One piece has yet to be installed. Gavin Turk has been commissioned to create an artwork for the central space; there is a definitely a need for something dramatic, inviting interaction, filling the void. Curator is a most overused word at the moment, and as a curated space this is sadly lacking in any commentary. The voice of the storyteller is silent. Maybe the Turk piece will bring it all together. Currently the most exciting part of the station area is the movement, the dance within the plaza, created by the travelling through of people, taxis, buses and bicycles. It’s worth visiting to watch the drama unfold, but if your interested in the artworks, you’ll need a pair of binoculars and a map.
The article was first published in January business pages of Cambridge News