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Optical Flow

By Lubna Chowdhary

Optical Flow 

by Lubna Chowdhary, commissioned by Tideway

Artist Lubna Chowdhary has been commissioned by Tideway to create an artwork in steel, for Greenwich Pumping Station.

The permanent Tideway commissions respond to the site-specific narratives set out in the Tideway Heritage Interpretation Strategy (HIS). The cultural meander for the East section is – ‘The Shipping Parishes: Gateway to the world’, the site-specific narrative references the revolutionary impact of the railway and its social and economic impact on society.

Lubna has developed an artwork which responds to this site's specific history of railway signalling. The adjacent railway was London’s first railway, the line of the London & Greenwich railway, connecting London Bridge (opened in 1836) to Greenwich (opened in 1838), which catered for short distance intra-urban travel. The structure consists of 851 semi-circular arches and 27 skew arches or road bridges. It is the longest run of arches in Britain, one of the oldest railway viaducts in the world and the earliest example of an elevated railway line. At Corbett’s Lane (to the east of the site) there the first ever fixed signal to control a junction was installed.

The artist has conceived the commission to be activated by the movement of the train, with the primary viewpoint from the railway and DLR. The additional interpretive material (the artwork) is integrated into the access ‘gates’ of the cladding of the pressure relief and air inlet structure located on the shaft structure. It comprises a white, vitreous enamel, circular panel, 2m in diameter , of 1.6mm steel panel. The rear of the panel has an internal galvanised steel frame with forward facing fixing brackets, and rear of the circular panel is closed with a 3mm white aluminium plate.

The disc will be revealed, from between the deep fins, as the train moves past and will then be concealed again. Due to the scale and colour it will also be visible by pedestrians and cyclists using the Quiteway. Care has been taken with the boundary treatments to ensure that it is as open as possible so views of the Listed Building are as unimpeded as possible. This has the benefit that the artwork will also be visible though the fence.

The artwork provides a subtle visual response to the HIS, providing multiple glimpses as one passes by train. It will not be overtly dominant in the space heritage setting. It is anticipated that the scale, proportions and materials should accord with those of the adjacent buildings and structures, the listed pumping station and adjacent residential development. Its scale is modest and appropriate for this site where there is no public access.

The artwork