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February – March 2008

Stourport Canal Basins Text Installation

[photo #7 credit Alex Ball]

[click 3rd October 2006]

[click project background]


Both texts are in Fry's Baskerville Italic, courtesy of Cappella Archive. This version of John Baskerville's font was being cut by Issac Moore for Fry's Foundry in Bristol at the same time John Fennyhouse Green was surveying Mr Acton's stubble field at Lower Mitton.

For the stainless steel text, the lower case letters are the height of one 'link', and for the sandstone text it is the upper case letters that are one 'link' high – a link (201mm) being the dimension of linear measurement Green used for his surveys.

The stainless steel text is Green's diary entry for 2nd November 1768 recording the outcome of his discussions with Brindley on the location of the basins, and the sandstone text is the title of Green's survey of the stubble field on 19th January 1769.

Stainless steel text:

'Mr Brindley fixed on going thro' Mr Acton's Stubble Field for making of a Bason and building warehouses et on it...And I was there ordered to measure it.'

This text functions like a landscape etymology:

'Mr Brindley' – locates the great engineer at the centre of the site.

'fixed on going thro'' – the key decision that led to the basins being where they are now located, and which led in turn to the development of the neighbouring town.

'Mr Acton's Stubble Field' – exposes the earlier layer of the palimpsest.

'for making of a Bason and building warehouses' – tells us what was here, particularly important in referencing the lost Iron Warehouse on the basis of Koolhaas' notion of how presence and absence function in proximity to each other.

'et on it' – the opportunity to use the extraordinary Baskerville italic '&'.

'And I was there ordered to measure it' – the decision becomes action, cues in the sandstone text, and, most importantly, connects everything to the first person – crucial to connecting with the site visitor as the individual reader, and thus exposing the reader's own position within the landscape.

Sandstone text:

"Plan of Mr Acton’s Field with the Rises and Falls of its Surfaces at every square Chains Length taken 19th January 1769."

This text functions in the same way that an information label relates to a painting in a gallery situation. The text is the label, and the painting is all of the landscape 'above' it.