Transport for London’s Art on the Underground programme never seems to run out of creative ideas. As part of their adventure along the Victoria Line, the Art on the Underground team identified Seven Sisters station in north London as a site with potential and enlisted the socially-conscious and process-led architects at Assemble to revamp a derelict kiosk outside the station entrance.
The station, which was identified by TFL staff as particularly bad spot for anti-social behaviour and is located on a main artery leading south into London, was not much to look at, and now it has a vibrant hybrid of art, design and architecture titled Clay Station at its entrance, which also serves as a commercial opportunity for businesses and locals.
Known for working on socially-engaged projects and collaborations with contemporary artists, Assemble decided to work with London-based ceramicist Matthew Raw to create a ‘joyful moment’ for Seven Sisters station.
Assemble and Matthew Raw’s kiosk designed for Seven Sisters station in London. Photography: GG Archard
‘The project was about making something that doesn’t look like it takes itself too seriously, just something overtly fun and enjoyable to improve the day to day commute. It’s a strange object that’s been planted, but with such a small structure you can get away with that – it becomes this curious object,’ says Adam Willis, architect at Assemble.
Choosing to collaborate with Raw was about blending the heritage of London’s iconic underground with cutting-edge contemporary craft: ‘It’s a celebration of tiling and clay on the Underground and on London’s infrastructure,’ says Willis. ‘There aren’t many extraordinary, modern day examples of ceramics – you normally think of the historic tiles on Victorian pub fronts or facades of station entrances.’
Together, Raw and Assemble worked to develop a technique of embedding and distributing colour through the tiles within the clay, producing a marbled effect of the combined colours: a canary yellow with a dense steel blue, and a dusty evergreen with white.
‘We spent a very long time doing lots of prototypes and testing numbers of different colours. The colour is kneaded into the body of the clay with a clear glaze over the top,’ says Willis.
Ceramic tiles developed and made by London-based ceramicist Matthew Raw. Photography: GG Archard
Assemble completely overhauled the design of the kiosk, to create a focal point for the station entrance – and to show off the tiles: ‘We added the benches, an overhanging roof and a tower to make it a bit more prominent and visual, and also to create more opportunities for surfaces to tile on – there’s lots of corner junctions and horizontal surfaces,’ says Willis.
During the course of the project, Art on the Underground organised ceramic workshops for the local community and also worked with Create Jobs, a careers service for 16 to 24-year-olds in London, to recruit two apprentices to work with Raw and Assemble for three months during the summer. The life-line of the project will continue as the kiosk will be rented out to businesses for commercial opportunities.
‘For Assemble the process is part of the outcome’, says Eleanor Pinfield, Head of Art on the Underground. ‘It’s so important to them that projects have a life and a social function, and it’s important to us that it doesn’t just become a beautiful static building, but that it becomes part of the fabric of the community, and that people passing it everyday find some use in it.’