French Quarter, Southampton
Artist: Simon Watkinson
Artwork Title: Cellar Lights
Client: Linden Homes & Southampton City Council (Public Art Department)
Designer(s): Arup (Structural Engineers)
Contractors: Gracelands Ltd
Manufacturer: IP Surfaces Ltd
Supplier: Hardscape Products Ltd
Going back in time to 2008 we remember the man behind the light show at Southampton’s medieval city walls as he unveiled a striking new work. Artist Simon Watkinson installed three computer-controlled displays of coloured lights in the pavement at Linden Homes’ French Quarter development.
To this day, the work called Cellar Lights, comprises three computer-controlled lightworks. They define the public space and mark the boundary between the modern world above ground and the below ground area that was a rich source of medieval artefacts and information. In daylight hours the work appears as grids of upended bottles set at regular intervals into the granite paving of Brewhouse Lane. This pedestrian walkway runs along the route of a medieval thoroughfare from the Lower High Street to Castle Way. Each bottle is engraved with the names of tenants of the site throughout history, including the children and staff from nearby St John’s Infant School. At night, Cellar Lights comes to life as a changing display of coloured LED lights which step and dance to enliven the space and draw attention to what lies below.
IP Surfaces were tasked with taking three 2500x1500x150mm slabs of Kobra granite which were finished in-house with a flamed ‘anti-slip’ surface and waterjet-cut circles were created within the slabs to house the coloured roof lights and then back-lit with LED’s. Each slab was set within a stainless-steel tray. An exemplary and early example of work produced when IP Surfaces were based at their manufacturing facility near Stratford-upon-Avon.
Simon Watkinson commented at the time of installation: “The colours of the bottles refer to bottle types – wine, medicine, spice – all things that are associated with trade through Southampton. The passage of time is marked by quarter-hourly ‘flourishes’ of colour.”
Pat Feighery, managing director of Linden Homes Southern, said at the time: “Simon’s installation does an excellent job in drawing attention to the rich heritage beneath our feet in this part of the city. I am sure it will help to keep the cultural links between past and present alive.”
Southampton’s Public Art Strategy aligns quality contemporary art, architecture, and urban design to deliver the highest standards of creativity and innovation in the public realm. In supporting this vision Linden Homes has worked with the City Council’s Public Art Department to commission one of the country’s leading light artists, Simon Watkinson.
Finished Scheme Photography: Rod Varley.