Twelve Trees,The Golden Sun and Silver Bird, Prior's Court School, Berkshire

The gate, which signs the way to Prior’s Court School, was commissioned by Dame Stephanie Shirley, the benefactor of this specialist school for children and young people suffering from autism. The most important and difficult point to be found in her brief was that the gate should be ‘un-climbable’. Gates often appear to be barriers rather than openings, but the design of this gate, like the other works of art in the grounds of the school, is clearly intended to promote curiosity, to give pleasure and to welcome. It is open in structure so that the curving treelined drive up to the house is not obscured.

The trees, which form the main part of the design, are based upon trees in the existing landscape. The silver bird is taken from the symbol for the school, freedom and flight into a good future. Behind the bird is a golden sun which radiates out from its own centre. It is symbolic of the growth pattern of trees; it is a universal symbol and will be meaningful in different ways for different people. The gates open, the sun moves back first and the bird flies up and in as the drive is entered. The concept for the gate is based on dreams and imagining as in the surrealist sense. The vertical lines on the gate echo the vertical lines of the trees and fulfil an important part of the client’s brief. The structure that supports the trees is found in the forged leaves at the top. The trees and leaves were forged in the workshop of Richard Watkins, in Suffolk, as a part of the design collaboration. In this work, modern technology and the ancient craft of the blacksmith link in a symbolic way. The inert metal is made pliable by man’s application of heat, so that the metal becomes alive and is formed anew by physical endeavour and labour. The cutting of the bird and sun with water jet is emblematic of man’s ability to harness the forces of nature and set them to work in our technological age.

TWELVE TREES, THE GOLDEN SUN AND SILVER BIRD
MILD STEEL, ALUMINIUM, GOLD AND PLATINUM LEAF
2000/2002
PRIOR’S COURT SCHOOL, BERKSHIRE
4.7 M X 3.9 M
DESIGN: WENDY RAMSHAW AND RICHARD WATKINS
FORGING: RICHARD WATKINS
PHOTOGRAPH: STEPHEN WHITE

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Twelve Trees, The Golden Sun and Silver Bird, main gate for Prior's Court School, Berkshire.



Drawings for detail on the main gate for Prior's Court School, Berkshire.



Drawings for detail on the main gate for Prior's Court School, Berkshire



Detail of forged leaves, main gate for Prior's Court School, Berkshire



Detail of Sun and Bird, main gate for Prior's Court School, Berkshire