Lift Fast, Lift Slow

Lift Fast / Lift Slow, 2013
Carpenters Road Lock
London Legacy Development Corporation
Queen Elisabeth Olympic Park, Stratford, London UK

Lift Fast, Lift Slow consists of two floating identical forms which physically represent the space occupied by the unique rising radial gates of Carpenter's Road Lock when they are active. The floating forms will be clad in a brick formatted tile. The space between the two floating identical forms in the lock will be a cultivated aquatic garden, with native plants that once thrived in the Bow Back Rivers.

In response to the site visit at Carpenters Road Lock, I found myself wondering what it would feel like to have this rising radial gate pivoting up and over my head. After studying the shape and technicalities of the radial gate, I thought that by making this occupied space a complete form, a viewer could truly appreciate the physicality of the rising radial gate.

The identical forms proposed for Lift Fast, Lift Slow brings to focus the innovative nature of the design of this lock. Carpenters Road Lock served two purposes when it was installed: to maintain navigation and to discharge floodwaters. This resulted in the rising radial gate which is one of only two that survive of the four that were ever installed in the UK. The reversible head of water between Waterworks and City Mills necessitated the installation of two radial gates which gives this lock significant characteristics.

The radial arch of the proposed identical forms offers the viewer a means of appreciating the form and function of this unique lock. The design of the radial gate points at the inherent strength of classic geometric form with a pivot point absorbing the pressure of water through the centre of the imaginary circle that the radius is a fragment of.

The visualised space the radial gate moves through occupies a space reminiscent of a wave. This shape is a relevant metaphor referring to the movement of water through the Bow Back Rivers. The reversible flow of water through this lock will be emphasised by the two identical wave-like forms.

The title Lift Fast, Lift Slow, is taken from the two potential speeds in which the gates could be moved. The handle shafts on the manually operated elliptical gearboxes were clearly labeled lift fast, lift slow. They enabled the operator to lift or lower the gate at a faster or slower rate depending upon the head/pressure of water on either side of the gate.

The forms will be clad in a white brick formatted tile. The tiles will be reminiscent of the brickwork featured throughout the Bow Back Rivers architectural structures. The tiles will evoke a sense of permanence and physical substantiality. The choice of using a white tile is to emphasise the shape of the radial forms and to also evoke a more neutral, municipal language.

Between these two identical radial forms will be a native aquatic garden. The aquatic garden will be cultivated with native aquatic plants that have historically grown in the Bow Back rivers. The Hackney Marshes Management Plan includes botanical records that date back 200 years which have documentation of specific aquatic plants in this area. The planting of the wetland bowls is the largest urban river edge habitat enhancement program ever recorded in Europe. This aquatic garden encompasses the values of the Olympic's regeneration of the Bow Back Rivers with an emphasis on biodiversity.

It has been noted that in the artists brief under constraints it clearly states that the proposed artwork should not project below the lock side or into the water itself. After discussing my idea with the Canal River Trust is was concluded that this work could potentially exist in this space if it could float on top of the water instead of being fixed to a surface therefore not impeding the flow of water through the lock. If and when the Canal River Trust needs to access this space, I would like to propose that the pieces could temporarily be "floated" and fixed to another set of points away from the centre of the lock.