We took the Piccadilly line, north to Wood Green and emerged from the underground into the unknown. Disoriented and trying to get my bearings, I spot our work next to the news stand. As often happens, I immediately feel connected to this unfamiliar place. They are bollards, but with a difference.
Commissioned by Haringey Council and designed by East Architecture, Landscape and Urban Design, the bollards take the form of large acorns. Until the 1800s the area was natural woodland called Tottenham Wood Green. The name of the suburb and, I presumed, the reason for the acorns and wondered how many oaks were cut down as London grew. www.east.uk.com
By acorn standards they are monumental. We sculpted them in clay and cast them in bronze. I wanted to see how they looked in situ and take some photos. One, two. They were scattered about. Three. The acorns began to appear. Four. They all stand rigid, upright on their points but are laid out quite informally. We found some outside the modern shopping centre. They also functioned as seats and were being put to good use, the bronze warmed on this sunny day.
We wandered around looking for more, enjoying the results of our work. The attention to detail lavished on each one, perhaps unnoticed by the passers by. I hope some consider the care, the craftsmanship that made these objects.
We’d cast eighteen acorns of varying patterns and textures. I had imagined they would all be placed close to each other. Not so, and at first they were hard to spot. I asked in the council offices but the receptionist didn’t know. No one had ever come in asking about the acorns before. Enquiring further we managed to get a few clues and headed off down the hill back in the general direction of Central London.
Resting in the station cafe I had the idea to go to the park opposite and scratch around for a real acorn. I thought it might have some significance like finding the source, the seed of the idea. Or at least be a souvenir of the trip. Encouraged by the the success of our explorations I looked around but disappointingly there were no majestic oaks in sight. Not even an ‘unmajestic’ oak. In fact I couldn’t see a single oak at all.
The lost oaks cause my mind to wander and I imagine a time, way, way in the future. In my daydream the streets have returned to woodland. Reclaimed and rewilded by nature. The fabric of our culture, our materials, our creations, turn to dust. But bronze is hardier than most. Buried in this forest, our acorns, perhaps in an even more distant future, unearthed and rediscovered. Our ancestors can only imagine what these treasures symbolised to our lost civilisation. Are the acorns monuments of an ancient people celebrating its harmony with nature? Perhaps they will be displayed in some future museum collection.
In reality they will probably be melted down someday, the material recycled by other resourceful humans. Or simply removed to make way for some future scheme. For now they are functional. Bollards or seats depending where they are planted. Doing their job, as we have ours.
We found our acorns but not our oaks. We have our photos. We head back underground.