Veolia, the UK leader in environmental solutions, approached us with a proposition. Last December, for Christmas, Veolia came together with the sculptor Faith Bebbington to create the Hart of London, an illuminated towering stag made of plastic. The goal of this project was to raise money, 3£ per donation, for free counselling services, night shelters for the homeless and support for asylum seekers. The installation included new tap technology allowing the visitors to pay on-site with only their card. As a result of a donation, the stag lit up beautifully.
This year, they are hoping to renew last years experience with our help. The goal stays the same, raising money for a homeless charity, and so do the materials which should be recycled. This time, however, the public installation will be located in Hanover Square instead of St. James Church gardens.
However, this location doesn’t allow donations after dusk as it closes at 4 p.m. Therefore, people should be able to donate both day and night. The installation should also be visible at all times to ensure that people don’t walk past unaware.
When we first received the brief, the location and the charity envisioned weren’t specified. So when asked to come up with as many ideas as possible, our proposals had to do with the climate crisis, raising awareness and encouraging people to be careful about their consumption.
My first idea is named the time-turner as a wink to the Harry Potter universe, which I believed to have potential, especially in the UK. It is a functional reconstruction of the object using only plastic and a metal structure. After a certain number of donations, the hourglass would reset, thus, reversing the climate crisis.
The second, the snowglobe exposes a fantasy world to the visitors. For the price of a donation, the meteorological conditions in the globe would get slightly snowy.
Thirdly, the snow-man is a metal structure designed to have plastic bottles be added to it to give it its shape. The bottles could be the visitors or already on site.
Lastly is the classic Christmas Tree with a new, more plasticky twist to it. The idea is to create decorations out of plastic and have people participate in decorating the tree.
These ideas needed reworking and improvement, some disappeared altogether, like the snow-man, whereas some remained as they were, like the time-turner. However, to the snowglobe was added an immersive aspect as the landscape would be set up between the outer and inner glass layer. People could admire it from the inside as snow swirls around them and covers the scenery for the price of a donation.
The tree was altered as well and given the name ‘Naughty or Nice?’. For each donation, the visitor gets asked a question such as ‘Have you recycled this year?’ or ‘Have you been using plastic bottles?’. Their answer determines whether they get put onto the nice or the naughty list, both get a present. The ‘nice’ wrapping is fairly easy to undo, however, the ‘naughty’ one is trickier and reveals a box fastened with numerous zip ties and a message similar to ‘Good luck getting to your present’. As for the presents, I have a contact who created reusable bags made of corn for vegetables, bread and fruits, among others. I had the intention of handing those in exchange for a donation and hopefully, encourage people to find alternatives to plastic.
Following our presentations, new details concerning the brief were revealed and explained, such as the location and the clients wish for the project to tackle homelessness. Another of the clients asks for a commercial aspect, which seems rather anti-climatic with the charitable purpose of the project, especially considering the chosen charity. The size, 2mx3m, as well as a deadline, 1st of December, were given. A more detailed brief made light on a few limitations, such as the necessity for the installation to be waterproof and the closing time of the park. Its legacy was not something we had previously considered: What happens afterwards? Is it sold to charity? Is it recycled?
The ideas are to be refined once more and will undoubtedly change drastically before being pitched to the client.