Contextual design and sculpture in Castleford

Our guest contributor, Christine Storry writes that ‘Intuitively, I think the place to start thinking about the issues of identity for the area is with arguably Castleford’s most famous son, sculptor Henry Moore.’

Moore had a deep interest in the siting of his work and often makes me feel a little guilty about reading on trains: he said it was a waste of a wonderful opportunity to observe the landscape. The photograph is of Moore’s bronze “Die Liegende”  in Stuttgart (image source:

If my memory serves me correctly, I think I heard the architect of a dull paving design for Castleford Town Center say that there were patches of black paving to reflect the underlying coal seam. This would count as a response to context but I doubt if it would command as much support as giving Moore an honoured place in Castleford’s urban landscape.

4 thoughts on “Contextual design and sculpture in Castleford

  1. stefan

    this is a very interesting discussion! it raises the question, can a place be given ‘meaning’ by the designer, or is meaning something that occurs naturally over time, as people use the space and it gains significance for them? should people be ‘allowed’ to alter the space, personalise it even? after all, one of the unique aspects of landscape architecture is that any design will change over time, as materials wear down, plants grow and people interact with it in unexpected ways. it can never be a frozen, perfect piece of art.

    by the way, what is it with landscape architecture and their obsession with patterned paving? how many people are interested in looking at the ground!

  2. Christine

    This is a topic I have given considerable thought to. For a relatively simple example consider the Eiffel Tower (source:http//

    1. Clients have particular intentions when they brief designers.

    The tower was designed for the Paris exhibition of 1889 to commememorate the centenary of the French Revolution. (It was opened by the then Prince of Wales?)

    2. Designers can ‘intend’ particular meanings such that their designs are meaningful for them in particular ways.

    Eiffel designed the tower to fulfil the competition brief to last twenty years. (It is still there) At the time of its construction it was the tallest building in the world. (It was until 1930)

    3. Connoisseur’s respond to designs in particular ways to designs.

    His design was unanimously selected as the winner of a competition out of 700 entries. (The architect for the project has been all but forgotten)

    4. The public responds to designs in unexpected ways.

    Letter published in Le Temps February 14 1887

    “We, writers, painters, sculptors, architects, passionate lovers of beauty, until now intact, of Paris, hereby protest with all our might, with all our indignation, in the name of French taste gone unrecognised, in the name of French art and history under threat, against the construction, in the very heart of our capital, of the useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower, that public spite, often marked by good sense and a spirit of justice, has already baptised the Tower of Babel….and for twenty years, we will see stretching out over the entire city, still quivering with genius from so many centuries, we will see stretching out like a growing ink spot the hateful shadow of the hateful column of bolted iron.”

    5. Eiffel’s reply.

    “…The first principle of architectural aesthetics is that the essential lines of a monument should be determined by its fitting perfectly into a setting….there’s an attraction in things colossal, a special charm to which theories of ordinary art are hardly applicable….And what is the source of this admiration, if not the immensity of the effort and the granduer of the result?”

    5. The judgment of history….

    Perhaps you can think of a landscape example?

  3. stefan

    well, as a rule, landscape design tends not to be as controversial as architecture. an exception might be La Defense in Paris, a premier example of landscape architecture out of harmony with its surroundings – but that was disliked when it was built and is still considered unattractive today!

    in general, people take landscape design for granted, even to the extent of putting up with badly designed spaces. i dont know, perhaps theyre just grateful for whatever open space they can get!

    i think this points to a major difference between the two disciplines. landscape architecture is responsive, and usually tries to respond to its surroundings. while architecture, by its nature, is an imposition. there has been a trend in recent times for landscape design to try and take its cues from architecture, to try and make a ‘statement’ but i dont think thats healthy. landscape isnt architecture and shouldnt try to be. it has its own unique considerations and needs to generate its own ideas


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