Public interventions – art and technology in public space

London, United Kingdom

We invite you to support the development of a public art intervention whose theme is the democratisation of public space.  Our project brings art and technology together to promote this theme in a way that is innovative, entertaining and, most importantly, accessible to all.

The interactive installation in central London has been awarded the “Inspire” mark of the Cultural Olympiad: a recognition of inspirational projects taking place alongside the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

the project

Have you noticed the peculiar way in which London´s public space is strictly controlled?  Railings: here, there and everywhere.  A uniquely British phenomenon, no doubt, but it was not always this way….

The inspiration and subject matter of our installation is the removal of London’s cast iron railings as part of the 1940s war effort: a “democratic gesture”, in the words of George Orwell, made under the pretext of recycling the iron for munitions manufacture (a use to which the alloy was in fact unsuited). The ornamental appearance of traditional iron railings belies their austere function: to control the public use of city space. With the railings removed, spaces that were private became public overnight, allowing Londoners unlimited access to green spaces.  This was, alas, a transient idyll: railings were returning to the square gardens even before the war had ended.

phantom railings

The site of the proposed intervention is a garden of the University of London, whose surrounding railings were –unusually-, never reinstated after the War. 

Drawing on this particular piece of history, the intervention in Malet St Gardens will make evident the absence of the original railings by creating an acoustic resemblance of the familiar sound children make while running a stick along an iron fence – an experience at once playful and nostalgic.

With technology at the core of our work, we have conceived the piece as fully interactive: sensor-based acoustic devices (installed behind the peripheral wall) will be triggered by pedestrian movement outside the garden; their tempo will be controlled by the walking speed of the passer(s)by, and the pitch of each railing’s ‘sound’ will vary according to the pedestrian’s proximity, allowing him/her to play and tune the “phantom railings” as she or he desires.

The result is foreseen as a completely innovative public art piece that reaches beyond the physical space of the installation: By tracking the performance of the acoustic devices as they are activated by the pedestrian, the ‘music’ produced by this urban instrument will be captured as a real-time audio-visual score and streamed live to the project’s website.


who we are

We are an interdisciplinary collective, based at the ‘Centre for Creative Collaboration’ (C4CC), University of London, exploring new ways to engage public interest and promote the cultural use of public space. We are working in the development of site-specific projects that will reclaim, transform, or appropriate urban sites that have been largely forgotten, cancelled, or made unavailable for public use.

Team: Catalina Pollak / Jeroen Janssen / Steve Kelly / Daniel Soltis / Guillaume Zenses / Ken Boak / Debbie Davies / Nathanael Price

how to help

Although we need money to meet the material cost of the installation, we are giving our time gladly and do not seek financial gain from the project.  We invite you to enter into the spirit of Orwell’s democracy and donate your “scrap metal” (i.e. a few pounds sterling) to help our project happen.

The owner of this project has not made any updates yet.

Users details

public interventions
Days to go
GBP £4,101
137% raised of our GBP £3,000 goal
This project ended on Friday, Jun 29th - 20:42

This project's deadline has now expired - you can no longer back these rewards

You cannot back this project, funding is now complete.


1. Benefactor

£10.00 or more : We will put your name on our website as a mark of our gratitude and a deserved acknowledgement of your generous public spirit.


3. Patron

£50.00 or more : If you are not into technology but into the arts, we invite you to become a patron. Your support will be acknowledged with an honorary mention on our on-site signage and an invitation to our opening party in the garden.


2. Technophile (or music-lover)

£50.00 or more : Your name on our website, as above, plus one of the individual infra-red/sound units from the installation, contained in a special “musical box”. Learn to play tunes on your phantom railing: remember, you can alter the pitch depending on proximity.


4. Collector

£500.00 or more : One (or more) of the twenty casings that comprise the installation will be yours when the work is de-installed. Each one is fitted with 5 infrared sensors and acoustic devices. Removed from its site-specific context the casing becomes an abstract acoustic artwork, evoking a phantom not only of the railings, but also of the space that they defined.