Newham Trackside Wall
Services Provided: Project Management, Manufacturing & Installation
FACTS AT A GLANCE:
- 1.9km installation along the side of the Elizabeth Line, built by Crossrail
- Longest piece of art ever commissioned in the UK and Europe
- 1,594 printed panels
- Printed Aluminium Composite Material (ACM)
- Cross-company liaison and working with local community
Sonia Boyce OBE RA
The Elizabeth Line, built by Crossrail, is by far one of the biggest developments in the recent history of London travel. Utilising both underground and overground rail systems, it stretches the entire breadth of the city and is expected to be completed during 2022. Whilst its practicality is unquestioned, its effect on the urban setting is significant. In some areas, such as east London, where the rails run predominantly overground, it was agreed that to hide the track behind a wall would be the ideal way to disguise it. Furthermore, to cover the track wall with a unique artwork would make what is an unsightly construction a feature for the local community to be proud of, particularly if the commissioned artist was local themselves.
Sonia Boyce OBE RA, who lives and works in London, was commissioned to create the artwork, now names the Newham Trackside Wall. Spanning 1.9km, the artwork, which is believed to be one of the longest pieces of art ever commissioned in the UK and Europe, runs alongside the track through Custom House, Silvertown and North Woolwich in Newham Borough Council. It is made up of five different elements – photographic background, memories and personal testimonies, historical and current facts from the area, special collections from local children and young people and a floral pattern that runs the entire length of the artwork. An artwork aimed at the local community to be proud of, Boyce sought out observations and contributions that she felt summed up the area. These included quotes about the people, places, community, the docks, nature and change, all of which offer personal, factual, entertaining and poignant observations of the area’s heritage and reflect the neighbourhood and the outcomes of the community engagement.
Designing the artwork is one thing but to print it on panelling and installing it is certainly another. After a complex and competitive tender process, Pearce Signs was awarded the contract to deliver the project. Working in conjunction with the artist, engineering experts Atkins and the construction company Delatim, Pearce delivered the high-quality installation.
An installation of this scale required rigorous testing, with benchmark samples produced throughout the development stage to ensure that the optimal clarity, colour testing and sharpness of the artwork was achieved. Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) was chosen as the ‘canvas’, as print could be applied directly onto the sheets, whilst for additional safety, and as specified by Crossrail, certain sections of the wall required fire-retardant ACM, which also needed to be sourced. Other materials were considered throughout the development stage, however the Pearce Signs client team concluded ACM was most fit for purpose because of its longevity, durability, strength, weight and direct to media application.
The biggest hurdle to overcome for the team was in the technical design. Nine files, each over 1TB, required setting and sizing across the entire length of the 1,594 panels, with varying sizes and sloping wall section panels needing to be taken into consideration. Pearce quickly acknowledged this needed dedicated resource and assembled its design team to complete the project.
But not only was the technical design a challenge. The entire project took place during a global pandemic! This was further compounded by the close-proximity to The ExCel Centre in East London, which was put on alert and transformed into a Nightingale Hospital. Understandably, the local authority restricted all non-essential works within the immediate vicinity so that emergency services and public could easily and steadily access the temporary hospital.
Working around the understandable restrictions, the installation took place throughout 2020/21 and was completed October 2021.
Commenting on the Pearce Signs involvement with the project, Robert Pooley of construction specialists Delatim said, “On a project of this size, it was inevitable a few challenges occurred. However, any issues were quickly acknowledged, addressed and resolved following the clear lines of communication established in the planning stages of the project. I would happily recommend Pearce Signs to any prospective customer after completing the longest piece of artwork in Europe.”
Neil Barker, Project Manager at Pearce Signs, added, “We are delighted to have been involved in this significant project, working with different specialist companies and the local community to deliver such an inspiring work of art. I am extremely proud of the part we played and how the Pearce Signs team worked together to deliver a truly inspiring installation.”
Special credit and thanks to our design team for their relentless efforts in making this happen.
For further details about the installation, you can read the whole story by clicking here – https://www.newhamtracksidewall.com/