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Urban Design Compendium

Case Study 049 - Commissioning public art

049 - Princesshay, Exeter

Land Securities Group plc has a distinguished record of supporting the arts as an integral part of their development projects. In recent years the commitment to public art commissioning as part of their new developments, retail and commercial, has been a priority. This commitment arises not from a gesture towards philanthropy but from a belief in the benefits that public art brings to Land Securities and the communities whom their developments will affect. Commissioning high-quality site-specific artworks creates a unique development, adds to sense of place and gives an extra level of quality and detail to the built environments.

Princesshay, due for completion this year, is a particularly good example of the success of site-specific public art. One of several public art commissions, ‘Marking Time’ by Patricia MacKinnon-Day, on the site of the original Almshouses, includes a series of glass doors, which are copies of medieval doors. The doors encapsulate archaeological finds, arranged chronologically with earliest artefacts located at the bottom of the door and the most recent at the top. Additionally, quotations from the Chapter Act records, referring those living in the Almshouses, have been sandblasted into the porphyry stone paving slabs.

Prior to the development, the Almshouses had become a haven for drug users and initial thoughts had been to simply put railings up around the site. However, commissioning of the artwork, lighting scheme and landscape architecture by Land Securities has created a hugely popular destination within Exeter, attracting so many visitors that, in response, a new café has now been opened in Bedford Square, overlooking the Almshouses..

Other Information

  • Location: Exeter
  • Project Team: Key Partners: InSite Arts Ltd, Livingston Eyre Associates and BDP Lighting, Developer: Land Securities Group Plc, Architects: Chapman Taylor Architects, Panter HudspithArchitects, Wilkinson Eyre Architects
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UDC2 Section - Delivering Quality and Adding Value 


New public art at Princesshay has helped improve the identity of the area, raised the quality of the built environment and attracted new business to the area.Images (image bank)