Bronze plaque for Abbey Mills Pumping Station
Marina Willer of design studio Pentagram has been commissioned by Tideway to create a bespoke bronze plaque for Abbey Mills Pumping Station. It forms part of her wider commission for the design of 12 floor-based bronze plaques at sites across the Thames Tideway Tunnel route to celebrate the transformational importance of the tunnel.
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 for Abbey Mills Pumping Station illustrates the importance of water resources to the wellbeing and sustenance of London’s populations. It also provides an historic perspective on the urban planning challenges required to meet the consequences of large scale environmental and climate change.
In response to the HIS, Marina Willer has developed a plaque for Abbey Mills Pumping Station, inspired by the elaborate Byzantine-style architecture of Joseph Bazalgette’s ‘cathedral of sewage’. Designed as a key element in London’s interceptor drainage system, the Abbey Mills Pumping Station complex was built between 1865 and 1868 to raise the sewage level of the Northern Outfall Sewer and protect London from flooding during storm and tidal surges. Viewed from the Greenway foot and cycle path, it remains a much admired masterpiece of Victorian design and engineering.
Like Willer’s design for the route-wide series of bronze plaques, this plaque features a moiré interference pattern – produced by overlaying similar but slightly offset patterns – that features a central disc as the primary element. Here, the pattern has been abstracted from architectural elements of the pumping station building. The interruptions across its surface will be emphasised by changes in the levels of bronze relief, and are strongly evocative of the movement of water and the circular form of the tunnel itself.
Inscribed along the outer perimeter of the plaques, along with the site name, are the words ‘THAMES TIDEWAY TUNNEL CONSTRUCTED 2016–2024’ to mark the tunnel’s construction period and the triumphant statement ‘A HIDDEN FEAT OF ENGINEERING AND THE WORK OF 20,000’.
The plaque will be cast in bronze and measure 600 x 600 mm. It will be situated on the boundary of the site, at a point along the Greenway and above the Northern Outfall Sewer, where the pumping station is visible.