1,400 sqm Temple Station roof terrace comes to life – theCoLAB Temple presents ‘The Artist’s Garden’ with Lakwena

For the first time since it was built in 1870 by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, the vast undiscovered half-acre roof terrace on top of Temple Underground Station between the Thames and the Strand is coming to life as The Artist’s Garden.

theCoLAB Temple has worked for four years to make The Artist’s Garden a reality and is delighted to announce that the inaugural intervention, a co-commission with 180 Studios and in partnership with Westminster City Council, is by London based artist Lakwena Maciver, internationally renowned for her joy-inducing palette, dynamic designs and profound, succinct messages.

Lakwena has created works in the public realm globally, from installations at Tate Britain, Somerset House, Facebook and the Southbank Centre, to a juvenile detention centre in Arkansas, a monastery in Vienna, and the Bowery Wall in New York City.

Her intensely coloured, geometric forms for the roof of Temple Station will create expansive and immersive floorscapes over which the public is invited to wander, absorbing the positive dynamism of the Paradise she has created.

The 1,400 sqm Temple Station roof terrace is a secret place unknown to all but the few Londoners who can see it from their elevated places of work, or who descend from nearby building sites for lunch. Invisible from the street, it is reached by well-worn steps with foreboding gates at the top of which a massive space opens up with the tops of the trees at eye level, crowned by the sky. It offers spectacular views across the River Thames towards the South Bank opposite.

Lakwena’s intervention Back in the Air: A Meditation on Higher Ground responds to the elevated nature of the site and the connotations of being raised up into the air, heavenward. Having long been interested in the myth of Paradise and our subconscious desire and ability to see and feel it, Lakwena’s Artist’s Garden is a contemporary vision of Paradise. Using interlocking tiles as if they were pixels or stitches to create a series of pathways and portals across the roof, she has created a haven above the turbulent world below – an oasis of coloured calm.

A specially constructed Artist’s Hut is modelled on the iconic Cabman’s Shelter nearby and creates a safe space within the safe space – an important theme in her recent HomePlace body of work where, during lockdown, she painted the inside of her home to create a site of affirmation, empowerment, and resistance.
The simple phrase ‘Nothing Can Separate Us’ seen at the entrance to The Artist’s Garden is a powerful spiritual message with multi-layered meaning – profound love, physical and spiritual connections, and the strength of unseen bonds.

Also, a plinth in The Artist’s Garden will showcase a series of works by emerging artists, starting with the winner of the Royal College of Art/Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s Graduate Award, Camilla Bliss.

Claire Mander, Director of theCoLAB said, “The Artist’s Garden is a beacon of London’s recovery through collaborative work with visionary partners intent on making this overlooked place between earth and sky a place to celebrate the connection between art and place. Lakwena’s intervention is a revelation: of an extraordinary site and of the power of the artist to bring us a glimpse of earthly paradise. An immersive, profound and powerful tonic, it orients the public towards the contemplation and creation of a positive future.”

Lakwena said “The name Temple, relating to the area’s historical association with the Knights Templar is overshadowed by its now predominantly secular surroundings. But the concept of a temple – a place where heaven and earth meet – remains deeply relevant. They say that the Garden of Eden was the first temple – the story goes that we were cast out of the Garden, and ever since then we have been longing to find our way back. This idea of a subconscious yearning for paradise sits in stark contrast to the highly colonised, concrete environment that now surrounds Temple Station. Yet it is this which has become the impetus for this public intervention.”

The Artist’s Garden is in partnership with Westminster City Council and is part of its Inside Out festival and Westminster Reveals. It is co-commissioned with 180 Studios and supported by Vigo Gallery, WSP, Northbank BID and Transport for London.

Cllr Rachael Robathan, Leader of Westminster City Council, said: “The Inside Out festival is a huge celebration of arts and culture on the streets of Westminster. We’re delighted to be working in partnership with theCoLAB and other partners to showcase the rich cultural heritage which our city has to offer. We have an exciting calendar of activity happening over the coming months that we hope will encourage visitors back into Westminster as part of our vision for the safe and successful reopening of our city.”

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