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Moving In

by Florian Roithmayr

Chelsea Quay

Florian Roithmayr, Moving In

Florian Roithmayr was commissioned by Tideway to create an artwork for the public realm site at Chelsea Quay.

Florian’s commission, like the other permanent commissions was conceived in response to Tideway’s Heritage Interpretation Strategy (HIS). The theme for the Central section of the tunnel is ‘Babylon to World City: Civic London’ with the site-specific narrative for the site focusing on the Royal Hospital Chelsea. The hospital’s status as a place for retreat and respite for Chelsea Pensioners after serving in the military and Christopher Wren’s design of the Hospital as a place of ceremonial display were key influences for the artist.

Moving In is a tactile artwork formed of brickwork integrated into the vertical surface of the public space, steps, intertidal terraces, and the river wall. As much experiential as visual, the brickwork highlights architectural edges and contours, marking and indicating the changing water levels of the River Thames and, therefore, what is visible and invisible, and what is revealed and concealed.

The groupings of glazed brick have been arranged in specially formulated patterns, with colourful tones suggestive of the annual Chelsea Flower Show and the historical context of the 18th-century Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens.

Moving In aims to bring visual, physical and conceptual connections back to the river as the vital source of nature, pleasure and infrastructure it has been for centuries and invites the public to experience pockets of retreat and respite while moving through the space.

The artist has said:

For me, this commission is very special because rather than sculpture as a distinct, fixed object situated discretely within the environment, it allowed me to propose an approach to sculpture as a dispersed, integrated and re-iterative process. Sculpture, in this sense, becomes a material process developed over time and space in the realisation of the site, in the realisation of its materiality, with many different contributors involved in its conception and fabrication. Their dedication, precision and skills in realising such a complex site and artwork were noticeable at all times and really contributed to bringing it all together. 

For the visitor, encountering sculpture throughout the whole site equally becomes a bodily experience unfolding over time and through space. There is no one point from which to observe and view the artwork: there are many, and they are changing.

With the exposure to weather and the River Thames rising and falling, parts of the artwork are exposed or submerged under changing water levels. And so the changing river is also a contributor, affecting and altering the experience of the artwork over time. The river becomes a collaborator in the ongoing process of sculpture, not only because of the materials of the artwork reflecting this particular river site of clay and sand transformed into glazed brickwork, but also because the river affects and alters the experience of the artwork over time to come. For me as an artist, it is really awesome to collaborate with the River Thames.

The artwork