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modernist concrete planters

Some commissions really hit the spot! It's quite some years since I first created a range of concrete planters but I loved working with the shapes and forms of Modernist architecture which inspired the collection...... 

........so it was fantastic to submerge myself in this visual language again when I was commissioned to design a set of concrete planters for a London courtyard.

There are 5 shapes in the collection - 2 cubes of different sizes, 2 long troughs and one tall trough and having this variety of forms made the set much more interesting to design.

Unlike my previous Modernist designs, for this commission I introduced an elongated semi-circle - a kind of U shape - which made reference to shapes in an already existing large concrete frieze/water fall in the courtyard. Using this shape helped tie the frieze and planters together but beyond this, I thought the curve added an interesting new dimension to the designs which I had never thought of before

As with much of my sculpture, the imagery is indented to the surface - some of the shapes are flat and smooth, others are finely ridged (we cast off industrial rubber matting to create that texture).

In each of the 5 designs, all 4 sides are different -it's quite some compositional feat getting them to work together harmoniously.

I've never - and would never have thought of - working with proportions like in this tall trough- but in fact it was interesting to have such a narrow tall rectangle next to a large squarish one - and also the large scale of this planter meant it had a lot of sculptural presence.

I have many books and photos of Modernist buildings and gradually I've built up an intuitive understanding of the key forms, shapes and patterns which give it its distinctive character. Diagonals are an important element but rather than being visible in the actual fabric of the building they mostly appear when horizontal and vertical walls and square arches cast shadows across other parts of the structure.  I'm assuming this is intentional on the architects part.

I expect I'll go back to the site at some point to photograph the containers planted up - but really from my point of view I prefer them empty because then it's easier to view them just as pieces of sculpture which is how I conceive them - the functionality was never the  raison d'etre for my concrete planters.

We cast the set in a range of greys using just pure concrete, revelling in all  its intrinsic characteristics - the rawness, the imperfections, the uneven colour and texture and of course the solidity and monumentality.

I really, really enjoyed working with these designs - I love resolving compositional issues and creating tension and balance (or off-balance more precisely) between forms.  As I've sometimes mentioned on this blog, I'm an abstract girl at heart - and connect that with my passionate interest in architecture then I was really in my zone on this commission.

My current challenge is to introduce this abstract aesthetic to my plaster busts - slowly, slowly, slowing trying to work it out!

You might also like this post about random concrete planters I've photographed here and there (plus some others I've designed).

And when I did a collection for Habitat -which was used the same Modernist influences - they made  FILM   in which I look at Modernist buildings and talk about my response to them


  1. I am so thrilled to see these, I got my June Sculpture commission done too so we both had busy summers!!! You know what, we have just just had a couple of weeks in Rhodes and the skyline is littered with cast concrete, Sol le Witts and Don Judd's, seeing the architectural scale unfinished projects trying to breach the Greek tax rules behind every beach made me smile thinking about your knockout work!!!

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