West Wing Gardens

I’m delighted to be appointed by The Land Trust to work on the realisation of my idea for an archaeological shelter, seating and gardening area at the West Wing Battery at Fort Burgoyne in Dover. I will develop my proposal for the north-western plateau of the West Wing’s outer rampart in collaboration with Lee Evans Partnership, the heritage architects for the Ancient Scheduled Monument.

The structure combines the protection and interpretation of the archaeological remains of a 1940’s building – concrete blocks, paving slabs, corrugated iron sheeting and a weapon pit – with the provision of a new viewing, seating and communal gardening area. Below a few photographs of the existing situation and an animated stratigraphic drawing showing the superposition of the historic and new layers: the grill-like steel structure, the benches and the raised planters of the Elevated Gardens.

I will also cooperate with Dover Arts Development on the orchestration of public events to continue the art led community engagement and placemaking process. The aim is to involve the pupils, their parents and teachers of the nearby Guston Church of England Primary School and other Dovorian Garden Guardians in the long-term management and maintenance of the communal garden space.

Mais Il Faut Cultiver Notre Jardin

Here my proposal for the new public artwork at the West Wing Battery at Fort Burgoyne in Dover. As one of five shortlisted artists I presented this to representatives of The Land Trust, Historic England, Arts Council England, Lee Evans Partnership, Charles Holland Architects and Dover Arts Development in November 2019. The first presentation got me into the final two, and I developed a revised version for my second interview with the panel. Whilst the actual commission was awarded to a sound installation and musical composition by Emily Peasgood, the jury also commended a substantial part of my proposal for realisation. More on this in the next post.

For now, a big THANK YOU to everyone who has supported the project so far: To my colleagues at UCA Canterbury, in particular to Ben Westacott, for helping with the gardener badges; to Katie Jolin, for the photo shoot; to Terry Norton, for all printed matters; and to Carlotta Novella, for introducing me to Ada Salter. And, last but not least, to Ines-Ulrike Rudolph for her sustained critical advice.


Or The West Wing Battery at Fort Burgoyne as Our Garden

The project motto is borrowed from the last sentence of Voltaire’s satirical novel Candide (1759). Having travelled the “best of all possible worlds”, only to encounter an endless array of disasters, wars and other human follies, the hero famously recommends horticultural care as an antidote to ideological doctrines and as a prescription for a contended and fulfilled life. “That is well put, replied Candide, but we have to cultivate our garden” 

The project adopts Candide’s advice and proposes to cultivate Fort Burgoyne’s West Wing Battery as “Our Garden” in order to contribute to the transformation of the 19th Century Land Front Fort into a communal and inclusive recreational place through the acts of horticultural and civic care. The garden motif that leads through the proposal is inspired by the Herb and Pleasure Garden idea that was developed during the community engagement programme (The Explorers) and by the historical anecdote that the West Wing Battery once was used as a private garden by one of the camp commanders.

Acknowledging both the opportunities and constraints of working with the Scheduled Ancient Monument as well as the demands and desires of the future users, the project proposes a multifaceted placemaking toolkit. This consist of a family of site-specific interventions that share a differentiated set of objectives. 

1. Heritage Tools: Three structures protect historic artefacts above ground level against further erosion: a new ramp, a new stair to the magazine, and a shelter for the remains of the 20th century building at the north-western edge of the rampart. The three protective structures improve the site’s safety, its accessibility and the comfort of public use.

2. Horticultural Tools: A set of Elevated Gardens provides raised planters for a new community of gardeners. They facilitate sustained community engagement by the residents of the adjacent Connaught Barracks housing development and other parts of Dover. Changing every season and with every generation of gardeners they also create additional destinations for the visitors of Fort Burgoyne. 

The proposal presents instruments for an active, inclusive and sustainable participation and placemaking process through the process of gardening. The interventions perform as functional objects as well as cultural markers that help with the interpretation of the historically significant structures of the site. All structures share the same formal language and materiality. The orange colour of the anti-corrosion coating unifies the family of objects and allows them to be clearly read as contemporary additions to the existing palimpsest of the West Wing Battery.

Gabor Stark, 2019

Public Art Commission for a Scheduled Ancient Monument

The West Wing Battery at Fort Burgoyne, Dover

Commissioned by The Land Trust

Part of Pioneering Places: East Kent / Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone & Ramsgate

Project Partners

Historic England

Arts Council England

Canterbury Archaeological Trust

Lee Evans Partnership

Charles Holland Architects

Dover Arts Development

New artwork for the West Wing Battery at Fort Burgoyne, Dover

The West Wing Battery as a Public Garden // Collage, Gabor Stark, 2019

I’m delighted to be shortlisted to work on a proposal for a new public artwork for the West Wing Battery at Fort Burgoyne in Dover.

The Scheduled Ancient Monument, originally built in the 1860s and in permanent military use until 2006, is now under the management of The Land Trust. Stabilisation and conservation works are currently carried out by Lee Evans Partnership, the heritage architects leading the redevelopment of Fort Burgoyne.

From January to April 2019, Dover Arts Development and Charles Holland Architects conducted a series of guided walks to support the conservation and opening up of the West Wing Battery through art led community engagement. Entitled The Explorers, the format drew on the skills, knowledge and ideas of local experts and residents to reimagine the site and build community ownership.

Building on the insights from the community engagement programme, the Land Trust is now commissioning a new artwork to help to deliver interpretation for the site and to facilitate long-term community activity. Part of the national Great Place Scheme ‘Pioneering Places: East Kent’, the project is supported through Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with Historic England and Artswork, the South East Bridge. From 36 expressions of interest, five artists have been selected to work on a proposal to be presented to the final jury in November.

I borrowed the motto for my approach from the last sentence of Voltaire’s novel Candide (1759), in which the hero – after travelling ‘the best of all possible worlds’, only to encounter an endless array of disasters, wars and other human follies – famously recommends horticultural care as a prescription for a contended and fulfilled life:

“Cela est bien dit, répondit Candide, mais il faut cultiver notre jardin.”

For further developments, watch this space!