For the first time since it was built in 1870 by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, the vast undiscovered half-acre roof terrace on top of Temple Underground Station between the Thames and the Strand is coming to life as The Artist’s Garden.
theCoLAB Temple has worked for four years to make The Artist’s Garden a reality and is delighted to announce that the inaugural intervention, a co-commission with 180 Studios and in partnership with Westminster City Council, is by London based artist Lakwena Maciver, internationally renowned for her joy-inducing palette, dynamic designs and profound, succinct messages.
Lakwena has created works in the public realm globally, from installations at Tate Britain, Somerset House, Facebook and the Southbank Centre, to a juvenile detention centre in Arkansas, a monastery in Vienna, and the Bowery Wall in New York City.
Her intensely coloured, geometric forms for the roof of Temple Station will create expansive and immersive floorscapes over which the public is invited to wander, absorbing the positive dynamism of the Paradise she has created.
The 1,400 sqm Temple Station roof terrace is a secret place unknown to all but the few Londoners who can see it from their elevated places of work, or who descend from nearby building sites for lunch. Invisible from the street, it is reached by well-worn steps with foreboding gates at the top of which a massive space opens up with the tops of the trees at eye level, crowned by the sky. It offers spectacular views across the River Thames towards the South Bank opposite.
“The Artist’s Garden is a beacon of London’s recovery through collaborative work with visionary partners intent on making this overlooked place between earth and sky a place to celebrate the connection between art and place. Lakwena’s intervention is a revelation: of an extraordinary site and of the power of the artist to bring us a glimpse of earthly paradise. An immersive, profound and powerful tonic, it orients the public towards the contemplation and creation of a positive future.”
Claire Mander, Director of theCoLAB said,
Lakwena’s intervention Back in the Air: A Meditation on Higher Ground responds to the elevated nature of the site and the connotations of being raised up into the air, heavenward. Having long been interested in the myth of Paradise and our subconscious desire and ability to see and feel it, Lakwena’s Artist’s Garden is a contemporary vision of Paradise. Using interlocking tiles as if they were pixels or stitches to create a series of pathways and portals across the roof, she has created a haven above the turbulent world below – an oasis of coloured calm.
A specially constructed Artist’s Hut is modelled on the iconic Cabman’s Shelter nearby and creates a safe space within the safe space – an important theme in her recent HomePlace body of work where, during lockdown, she painted the inside of her home to create a site of affirmation, empowerment, and resistance.
The simple phrase ‘Nothing Can Separate Us’ seen at the entrance to The Artist’s Garden is a powerful spiritual message with multi-layered meaning – profound love, physical and spiritual connections, and the strength of unseen bonds.
Also, a plinth in The Artist’s Garden will showcase a series of works by emerging artists, starting with the winner of the Royal College of Art/Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s Graduate Award, Camilla Bliss.
“The name Temple, relating to the area’s historical association with the Knights Templar
is overshadowed by its now predominantly secular surroundings. But the concept of a temple – a place where heaven and earth meet – remains deeply relevant. They say that the Garden of Eden was the first temple – the story goes that we were cast out of the Garden, and ever since then we have been longing to find our way back. This idea of a subconscious yearning for paradise sits in stark contrast to the highly colonised, concrete environment that now surrounds Temple Station. Yet it is this which has become the impetus for this public intervention.”
The Artist’s Garden is in partnership with Westminster City Council and is part of its Inside Out festival and Westminster Reveals. It is co-commissioned with 180 Studios and supported by Vigo Gallery, WSP, Northbank BID and Transport for London.
About the Artist
Lakwena Maciver was born in London (1986) to an English mother and Ugandan father and spent formative years of her childhood in East Africa. She studied graphic design at the London College of Communication graduating in 2009. The name Lakwena – meaning ‘Messenger’ in the Acholi language of northern Uganda – is reflected in the artist’s practice, which is concerned with the dissemination of messages. Her work explores and gently subverts ideas relating to decolonisation, redemption, escapism, afrofuturism and utopia. She has been undertaking public art commissions internationally for over a decade and has recently exhibited at Hastings Contemporary. She lives and works in London and is represented by Vigo Gallery. www.lakwena.com
theCoLAB collaborates with inventiveness creating opportunities for artists to use unusual sites as experimental laboratories to realise their most ambitious, far-flung and life-affirming work. Operating beyond the confines of the white cube since 2011, theCoLAB conceives and realises its large scale, long term, complex artistic interventions. Working with partners from English Heritage, Rivers and Canals Trust to businesses to national collections, theCoLAB’s work changes the way we perceive, experience and understand the interrelation of space, place, concept and sculpture. For more information visit thecolab.art
Mark Westall is the Founder and Editor of FAD magazine Founder and co-publisher of Art of Conversation and founder of the platform @worldoffad