A new public artwork was unveiled earlier this week at the entrance to The Sycamores, a development by independent housebuilder Dandara on the outskirts of the village of Bearsted, near Maidstone in Kent. The galvanised steel sculpture, by artist Steve Tomlinson, stands 2.4m tall and represents a pair of sycamore seeds.
The artist was chosen for the £12,000 commission after a lengthy interview process, which asked applicants to create a site-specific design to “celebrate the new communities” that would develop at The Sycamores, while also referring to the historical, social and architectural context of the site and nearby villages.
With the Bearsted Woodland Trust nearby, and numerous fine sycamores in the area, the “helicopter” seeds or “keys” which come whirling to the ground in the autumn were chosen as the perfect symbol of the new community with its spacious homes and gardens and easy access to the great outdoors.
Steve Tomlinson is an artist who is known for his large-scale public art works inspired by the natural world, from butterflies and dragonflies to oak leaves and birds. For Dandara’s commission, he worked with the local community and the parish council to develop the sycamore seed concept into its present form. “Several versions were designed and tweaked to create symmetry between the two wings so that there was a balance to each piece,” he said. “It was fabricated in steel, then galvanised with a light acid edge applied to it, giving it a nice, soft grey colour.”
The unveiling was attended by Art Curator Polly Harknett and Fine Artist Suzanne Norfolk who represented the artist, while representatives from Dandara included Associate Sales and Marketing Director Louise Norman, Sales and Marketing Co-Ordinator Kari Rees, Operations Director David Garrett, Construction Manager Scott Hannah and Head of Land Rebecca Taylor.
Suzanne Norfolk, Fine Artist said: “On behalf of the local community I am extremely grateful for Dandara and Art curator Polly Harknett, for commissioning this artwork. I was kindly asked to use my local knowledge and my artistic skills to help the committee and the Artist Steve Tomlinson. Our goal was to ensure the sculpture included imagery that represented Bearsted and Thurnham. I drew on my personal knowledge of the villages and the surrounding area, gained as part of my own work as the Artist of the Bearsted Jubilee Plaque, which resides on The Green.”
The striking new piece of art has been positioned at the entrance to the development, where it can be admired by everyone passing in and out of the estate, as well as being studied at close range by people waiting at the adjacent bus stop.
Louise Norman, Associate Sales and Marketing Director for Dandara South East said: “It’s the perfect design for this semi-rural location, where residents can enjoy the nature of the beautiful Kent Downs close at hand.”
The Sycamores, which will eventually feature 100 new homes, is on the edge of the historic village of Bearsted, with its picturesque village green, 59 beautiful listed buildings and superb selection of traditional pubs and restaurants. It’s a half hour walk to the beautiful Mote Park, with Bearsted Woodland Trust, Milgate Park and Spot Lane nature area nearly on the doorstep. The rolling landscape of the Kent Downs is easily accessible for walking and cycling, while a play and amenity area at the centre of the development provides plenty of space for games and picnics.
The design of the homes draws on the traditional features of houses in the Bearsted conservation area, with features such as timber cladding, clay hanging tiles and red brick and flint walls creating a new community in traditional Kent village style. Every home has parking, a car port or a garage, and larger properties have luxurious fitted wardrobes and sun rooms. Photovoltaic panels and electric car charging ports are also available to selected plots, helped residents to go greener. The homes are finished beautifully, with Amtico flooring, carpets and bathroom tiling as standard.
Three, four and five-bedroom houses are currently available all named after trees, ranging from The Ash, a three-bedroom terrace with a separate lounge leading to the garden, to The Sycamore, a three-storey, five-bedroom detached home with a study, utility room and garage.