Letchworth Centenary Art Commission
Steel and copper structure, light, signs, planting scheme
Letchworth’s familiar appearance conceals its revolutionary origins. Founded by Ebenezer Howard in 1903 as the first Garden City, it became a blueprint for many new towns and communities around the world. Never adopted in full as intended, its legacy is our suburbia.
Ebenezer Howard’s plan for social reform was to create a paradise on earth by bringing the benefits of country and city living together. Everyone would have their basic needs met from within the boundaries of the industrial city. People would live in the ideal house, surrounded by a garden.
In his book On Adam’s House in Paradise the architectural historian Joseph Rykwert traced the significance of the image of the primitive hut as the first and therefore ideal house. I have quoted the final sentence of this book: paradise is a promise as well as a memory on four street signs surrounding the site.
The copper and stainless steel structure on the mound is an ideogram of the original house, as this must have been part of Howard’s inspiration. Howard’s famous diagrams The Social City and The Three Magnets are sandblasted onto the metal posts. The site itself is planted with birch trees, grasses, geranium, iris, lamium and rudbeckia to resemble a small piece of paradise.
I have aimed to make a work which evokes the dialogue between the familiar and the revolutionary. It also represents our basic need for shelter and the ingenuity and industry it takes to have this need fulfilled. I hope that in illuminating Paradise Is at night, with the shadow framing the lit window of the Town Hall, the house is given a soul.
Bettina Furnée, 2003