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Folly Engaged – Public Art at Castle Hill South Lakeside

Folly Engaged - Public Art at Castle Hill South Lakeside

Since their appointment in early 2022, FleaFollyArchitects have been developing a folly concept for two shoreline installations for the Castle Hill South site, which historically housed a timber castle.

Published date: 12 May 2022

Pascal Bronner and Thomas Hillier, founders of FleaFollyArchitects, are spatial storytellers who use narrative and fiction to discover, explore and invent unique architectural structures. They like to blur the boundaries between architecture, design, fashion and art using craft as a key component of their work in trying to bring imaginative worlds to a wider audience.

As part of the development process, the artists have worked closely with FrancisKnight and Henley Camland on an engagement programme. They have got to the heart of what the community wants by working with a public art panel made up of residents from Ebbsfleet, pupils from local schools, running an online public consultation and hosting a in person drop-in session at Castle Hill community centre. The engagement programme has been central to the development of the follies, with feedback strongly influencing the final creations.

In March 2022, the artists delivered workshops at Manor Community Primary School and Northfleet Technology College. The purpose of the workshops was to develop, with the help of local students, detailed elements of the follies, such as the design of the gargoyles crowning the structures and the de-bossed pattern on the concrete cladding.

Pupils were immersed in the design process by creating their own 3-dimensional folly models. They explored the creative placement of the gargoyles and de-bossed patterns to create their own unique artwork.

Liam Fagg, Community Liaison Officer, from Manor Community Primary School, commented “we were very impressed with the workshop and it was delivered perfectly. The pupils were very engaged throughout the whole day.”

In the public consultation, FleaFollyArchitects asked a series of questions about the Castle Hill South site. The responses highlighted peoples’ love of the area, in particular the nature, greenery and scenic walks. Residents saw the lakes, white cliffs and surrounding trees as the key focal points of the area and wished to use this peaceful and tranquil environment as a place of contemplation and community activity. Feedback highlighted the importance of seating and good lighting so the space could be fully enjoyed regardless of the time of day.

The community also suggested the follies should have historical references linking to the roots of the area whilst incorporating modern-day storytelling, referencing the evolution of the site. Feedback demonstrated the importance of a sympathetic design which would complement the unique geography of the space.

In the design process, the duo envisioned 3-dimensional totems with motifs on top of the two follies. The public was asked which modern-day ‘gargoyles’ would best represent the area. The answers were inspired, ranging from Kentish horses to prehistoric mammoths, birds and a timber castle.

A drop-in event was held at Castle Hill Community Centre to provide residents with an opportunity to view plans in full and speak directly to the artists. The event was well attended and FleaFollyArchitects valued the opportunity to hear what the general public had to say about their proposals.

Louise and Laura, Founding Directors of FrancisKnight, commented “It was great to spend the day at Castle Hill community centre with Thomas and Pascal, sharing their design proposals for the lakeside setting. The community centre is a much loved and used space and it gave us the opportunity to meet and chat with a diverse group of residents who use the facilities throughout the day.”

The engagement programme has ensured the final installations will be representative of the needs of the community, providing visual landmarks that celebrate the heritage of this unique site.

The team will now be working on constructing the final designs and look forward to the community response when the follies are unveiled in September 2022.

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