Back when I was still thinking about what a programme of public in art in St Loyes might look like, I went for a wander around the ward with Rosie King. Rosie is an environmental artist with an interest in place and its buildings. I first came across her in 2015 when she was chalking on the pavement of Princesshay. It turned out she was drawing the outline of the Exeter Phoenix, Thomas Sharp’s plans for rebuilding Exeter after World War II.
We found a great deal to mull over:
- St Loyes as the digestive system of Exeter, the source of much of what it needs: water, energy, comms companies have offices there; Sowton supplies building materials, Amazon, Booker; police, fire, ambulance have bases.
- St Loyes is on the east side of the city; it’s where the sun rises and the day starts.
- Transience & liminality: arterial routes bounding or cutting through; holiday makers on change-over day at the J30 services; shoppers at Exe Vale retail park; boulders placed against travellers.
- Navigating boundaries: flowering bedding plants in strict lines are used to ‘fence off’ suburban properties; remote civil servants draw invisible boundaries around school catchments, health authorities, constituencies, council wards, and even dustbin collections!
- Navigating changing land use: industrial estates lead to suburbia to retail parks, which is a good thing if people can live near where they shop and work and go to school, and get in the car less and build community more.
- Urban design priorities, and subverting them: road crossings fit with cars rather than people on foot; desire paths where the crossings are made anyway; men in hi-vis jackets, using the boulders as a smoking stop; the homeless man making a camp.
- Green space: all the trees and mini-wildernesses, and dens; pockets of green and biodiversity; picnic tables and benches dotted around Sowton.
- Different areas of knowledge held by different people: where to forage for cherries, plums and blackberries; where parking spots for campervans are available.
- ‘Waves of immigration’ and its associated architecture: pre-war council housing; suburbs of the 1960s and 1970s boom; new suburban in-fill estates, building on the green lungs.
- Signage: restricting parking; designated activity zones; rules in playgrounds and other possibly community space.
Here are Rosie’s photos of suburban architecture through the ages…
…and mine of pockets of green space.