Art & Culture
Please keep seven carp apart in Thames Barrier Park
These creative social distancing signs are inspired by the Royal Docks’ history. We spoke to Patrick McEvoy, the architect behind Thames Barrier Park’s newest creative streak.
Three barrels, four gulls, or seven carp – this is how much space we should leave between ourselves and others, according to the new signs in Thames Barrier Park. Painted on the ground throughout the park, it’s part practical, part artistic – as good wayfinding should be.
It’s such a unique location, a modern piece of landscape design with amazing views out to the Thames.
Patrick McEvoy, architect
“I had the idea back in May. I live local to Brockwell Park in Brixton, where a lot of distancing graphics had been sprayed onto the ground. It was just male and female stick figures, reminding people to stay two metres apart. It seemed like a missed opportunity,” says Patrick McEvoy, who designed the creative signs. Installation took place in Thames Barrier Park on Sunday 25 October, after a tense wait in the days leading up to see if it would stop raining.
The project started with McEvoy submitting a proposal for his “please keep apart” signs to the London Festival of Architecture, who suggested the Royal Docks as the perfect place. “We decided on Thames Barrier Park, because it has these broad walkways either side of the planted dock with great views out to the flood barrier.”
I wanted the graphics to clearly encourage social distancing, but in a way that was quirky and engaging.
McEvoy had never actually been to Thames Barrier Park before this project. “But it’s so cool,” he laughs. "It’s such a unique location, a modern piece of landscape design with amazing views out to the Thames.” McEvoy custom-designed the signs for the Royal Docks, drawing inspiration from the water, local surroundings, and the area’s history. “Barrels are historically connected to the docks: if you look at old photos of the area you'll see hundreds of barrels used to import and export goods,” says McEvoy. “I wanted the graphics to clearly encourage social distancing, but in a way that was quirky and engaging.”
The stencils are likely to stay in place between three to six months, before they're slowly worn away by foot traffic – the paint is the same used to mark pavements around the city. The installation only took a few hours, but the drawing and the preparation was more involved: “The biggest challenge was securing the 2.4 by 1.2 plywood stencils on top of a Fiat Panda,” he laughs. This installation may be a one-off; McEvoy is an architect, and has completed a series of small public realm projects for the London Festival of Architecture. “I like looking at the narrative of places, examining the history and what’s happened there previously,” he says. “The Royal Docks is inevitably changing, but you want to do that in a way that acknowledges its past, and what’s unique about it.”
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