Larry Achiampong named as Artist in Residence for Smithfield Public Realm Transformation

The City of London Corporation and Hawkins\Brown have announced that Larry Achiampong has been appointed as Artist in Residence for the public realm redevelopment of the historic Smithfield area, helping to realise the City’s vision for Culture Mile.

Photo of Larry Achiampong by Emile Holba

Larry Achiampong was invited to the role following a curatorial process led by the Contemporary Art Society. His work focuses on pop culture, class and colonialism, and has been shown at Tate Modern, Somerset House, the 57th Venice Biennale and the Institute for Creative Arts in Cape Town. His latest work, an audio piece called Sanko-time, is currently part of The Line, London’s free art walk.

In January 2020, the City of London Corporation selected a multidisciplinary design team led by Hawkins\Brown and comprised of landscape architects OKRA, Contemporary Art Society, transport consultant Momentum, and lighting designers Studio Dekka, to draw up proposals for the transformation of the public realm in Smithfield.

The public realm commission anticipates major changes to the area that will create an exciting, welcoming new destination within the Culture Mile. These include the opening of the Elizabeth Line at Farringdon, the relocation of the Museum of London to former market buildings in the area, and the potential redevelopment of the current market buildings following the proposed relocation of the meat market to Dagenham Dock.

Larry Achiampong will be embedded in the design team during the next design phase. Achiampong’s role will include his own research into to the area. He will engage with local communities and stakeholders to develop a unique creative response that will inform the permanent design of the civic spaces of Smithfield. His work will focus particularly on engagement with Black youth and elders in the City and adjacent boroughs to encourage wider representation and new narratives within the design process.

Artist Larry Achiampong said:

“My role as an Artist in this process puts me in a unique position, using my methodology and practice to inspire the difficult, critical conversations around class, race and gender that affects the whole of society and how it has been built around us. By exploring elements of popular culture that relate to the histories in the area, my intention is that this process will create long-lasting and meaningful bonds with communities that may not have existed before.

I hope this Artist in Residence role will be one of many projects, practices and commitments in an ongoing process to create an enduring legacy that allows the City to feel like home to everyone, particularly those who are mis/underrepresented.”

Emerging designs for the Smithfield Public Realm seek to celebrate the history of the area, increase planting and greenery, incorporate a ‘Healthy Streets’ that prioritises people over vehicles, provide facilities for cultural activity and support a diverse range of local communities and businesses. These joint aims will help realise the City of London Corporation’s vision for Culture Mile, an area stretching from Farringdon to Moorgate.

Culture Mile is led by the City of London Corporation together with the Barbican, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London Symphony Orchestra, and the Museum of London. They will also support the delivery of the City Transport Strategy and the new Climate Action Strategy.

Darryl Chen, Partner and Head of Urban Design at Hawkins\Brown said:

“Our vision is to unify Smithfield’s multiple histories and contemporary cultures into a place for all Londoners. The appointment of Larry Achiampong as Artist in Residence is a crucial element of our ‘multiple perspectives, multiple hands’ design approach that centres on co-authorship and co-curation.

Through careful excavation, repair and design, this will be a new chapter in Smithfield’s continuing legacy, providing a characterful public realm full of distinct yet complementary functions, and demonstrating Smithfield’s often conflicting, brutal and hidden history.”

Colin Ledwith, Deputy Head of Consultancy, Contemporary Art Society said:

“We are immensely proud to introduce Larry Achiampong to the Smithfield Project. His ongoing concern with social equity, and the multiple perspectives which shape it, provide a unique lens through which to view Smithfield’s future.

Chairman of the Projects Sub Committee at the City of London Corporation, Keith Bottomley, said:

“We expect to see a vast increase in the number of people visiting the
West Smithfield area in the coming years, and so redevelopment of the public spaces there is essential. The implementation of the Culture Mile initiative, including the relocation of the Museum of London to the area, and the opening of the Elizabeth line at Farringdon and Farringdon East stations will attract more people to this historic part of the City. We are very pleased that Larry Achiampong will help to create and install engaging public realm art works to make the Smithfield area more welcoming, whilst reflecting and celebrating the history of the City of London.”

Working closely with Culture Mile partners, Hawkins\Brown’s first phase plans for the area will be realised by 2024 to align with the scheduled opening of the new Museum of London.

Main photo credit: © Emile Holba