As part of the London Design Festival and designjunction, award-winning British designer Steuart Padwick teamed up with Time to Change, Ramboll and Hoare Lea to create ‘Talk to Me’, a series of two 5.5-metre sculptures designed to stimulate conversations about mental health.
Two giant figures, situated in King’s Boulevard, King’s Cross, reminded passers-by that through communication the weight so many of us carry can be reduced. As visitors approached the breathing wooden sculptures, a sensor was triggered, and the figures voiced poignant and uplifting words. These conversations started to crack the ‘burden’ to release a glowing light. The series progressed from a standing figure, carrying the burden on its shoulders, to a figure resting against its burden, highlighting that while the burden may not be overtly visible it is often not far away.
Following Padwick’s ‘Head Above Water’ sculpture for designjunction 2018, members of the project team were reunited for this year’s installation. Providing their expertise pro-bono, Ramboll addressed the many structural design challenges and Hoare Lea worked on developing Steuart’s vision for the sound and lighting solution.
Constructed in sustainable Douglas Fir timber to convey a warmth and humanity, the figures contrasted with the strict cuboid shapes and concrete looking burden blocks. Scale was important to convey the power of the subject and again to emphasise the humanity of the voices Steuart had recorded. To achieve Steuart’s artistic vision, he used HI-MACS, an innovative composite material panel and routed ‘cracks’ into it so that Hoare Lea could add their specialist lighting as if to seep through and reveal these cracks.
Padwick asked Hoare Lea to create an interactive method using sensors to play the voices which would create an intimacy with the pieces. Padwick collaborated with over 30 writers, poets. actors and mental health recovery ambassadors who wrote and recorded pieces for ‘Talk To Me’. Making this work, required careful balancing of these voices in what is a noisy open space. The pieces needed to be able to express the importance of communication to mental health.
James Buck Lighting Designer, Hoare Lea explains: “We wanted to help realise Padwick’s ideas to ensure that the lighting worked with the sound and the physical sculpture to emphasise the message that talking can reduce the weight on our shoulders. The communication between the passer-by and the figures provided a valuable space for people to stop and think about the importance of speaking and being heard, creating a sensory experience to engage and inspire.”
Paulie Roche, Sound Designer, Hoare Lea explains: “Padwick’s intent was for the audio to bring these giants to life through the interaction of visitors. The sound encouraged passers-by to stop, interact and contemplate, and by listening to the internal voices of the figures, hopefully speak up and talk about how they feel.”
Alan Dowdall, Ramboll Associate, said: “Ramboll was delighted to collaborate with Steuart on another inspiring and thought-provoking piece. As a pledged ‘Time to Change’ employer, the message on communication and mental health resonates with us and our commitments to change our industry’s attitude and behaviours for the better.”
Commenting on the success of the solution, Steuart Padwick said: “Once again Ramboll has come to the rescue with their expertise, professionalism and relaxed, reassuring approach and again this year, Hoare Lea were our go-to consultants to work on ‘Talk to Me.’”
This captivating piece of public art is supported by Time to Change, the nation’s mental health anti-stigma campaign. To get involved in the campaign visit www.steuartpadwick.co.uk/talktome
Photo credit: ‘Talk to Me’ by Steuart Padwick, with light and sound by Hoare Lea, photography: Dan Paton – www.danpaton.net