Walking next to a construction site is anything but enjoyable. Unavoidable noise (and sometimes air) pollution is partly responsible, but development hoardings also contribute to the unpleasant feeling. In most cases you walk alongside blank canvases, made from OSB or poorly built plywood boxes, and covered with a concrete grey or navy blue Dulux paint. If you’re lucky enough to pass by a development for luxury apartments, you’ll find some lavish advertising for the homes which, of course, you couldn’t afford anyway. With her blog “Development Aesthetics,” Crystal Bennes gives credit to the visual importance of hoardings, showcasing London’s latest construction sites and commentating on the inadequacy and often absurdity of the advertising on their hoardings. As apartment blocks mushroom around the British capital, the issue increasingly affects inhabitants’ use and understanding of public spaces.
Hoping to turn this trend around, the UK-based construction, architectural and engineering firm Primebuild has launched its "Canvas for London" Initiative, using construction site hoardings as platforms for artists to display their work.
According to Primebuild's director Tom Tighe, “We believe in not just the end product, but the beauty of the process along the way. We see hoardings as temporary structures, which are the only connection with the public during works--a huge opportunity and one which we should give to the creatives of our cities who need the chance to promote their work on some of the biggest canvas sizes around.”
Hoardings could also meet educational goals, as exemplified by local artist Joshua Richardson with his “Project Plural.” The drawings--currently displayed on Primebuild’s construction sites--aim to “bring to life the ongoing importance of animal conservation, to educate children and adults through humorous illustrations and unearth all of the forgotten collective nouns.”
But the initiative’s primary goal is to raise awareness within the building industry. Architects and construction firms are not only responsible for the completion of their design, but also for the quality of “temporary” living environments during construction works. This approach needn't even be an expensive added construction cost, as young artists looking for recognition could offer low-cost, compelling solutions to the design of suitable hoardings. In fact, only one question remains: why isn’t Primebuild's approach more widespread?