In May 2007 I was awarded the Jerwood Sculpture Prize for my proposal, Spring. Rather than construct and import something into the park, my proposal involved drilling a borehole into the aquifer below the site. Water from the borehole would be then pumped to the surface where it would appear as a cloud of fine mist. Spring’s external form and appearance would vary significantly depending on weather and light conditions, but the reliable water source meant that it would remain a permanent feature of the park.
CLIENT: The Jerwood Foundation
DRILLING CONTRACTOR: WB+AD Morgan
CONTRACT VALUE: £25,000
Researching my proposal for the Jerwood Sculpture Prize brief, I realized that Ragley Hall is situated above one of England's most significant aquifers. About 40 percent of Severn and Trent Water's supply comes from this vast subterranean water resource, as do the celebrated springs at nearby Malvern, Leamington Spa and Burton on Trent.
As well as having a formal relationship with the nearby sculptures, Spring will have a direct and active relationship with the landscape itself. Using the actual water present in the ground, visible vapour will sustain the turf and surrounding plants before vanishing into the atmosphere and ultimately returning to the ground.
Initial project model.
View of Ragley Hall from the south, with the white drilling rig and working vehicles visible to the left of the stand of trees.
WB+AD Morgan's rig, ready to start drilling. The drilling process involved using a diesel-powered rotary drill to cut through the bedrock, and compressed air to blast the waste material out of the hole. The British Geological Survey predicted the geology beneath the site to be composed of mudstone intersected with 'skerries', or layers, of sandstone. The dusty red chippings (above left) are mudstone; the grey (above right) evidence of a layer of sandstone.
The water table was reached at 9 metres. As the drilling continued into the saturated rock, the dry material expelled from the hole turned to a fine mud composed of groundwater and the powdered rock. Drilling was complete at 24 metres. The borehole was then lined with a white PVC well-screen, which protects the well and acts as a filter. The gap between the well-screen and the bare rock was packed with gravel.
To remove the last of the mud, the groundwater was flushed out of the well with compressed air until it ran clean. This took about an hour. When the compressed air was turned off, the groundwater could clearly be heard rushing back in to fill the borehole.
With the borehole completed, the drainage pit containing the muddy contents from the well was left to dry out. This was emptied and reinstated a week later. The fibreglass well-chamber was then fitted over the well head underground, into which the pump's electrical components were fitted. Finally, only the bronze cover remained visible.
While digging round the well-screen to prepare for the installation of the fibreglass well-chamber, an old drainage channel was discovered. Made of arched slabs of fired clay, these were laid in parallel diagonal lines throughout the landscape to help drain the heavy clay soil. These were probably made by Napolionic prisoners of war, emprisoned nearby during the early part of the 19th century. Having excavated a trench between the well-chamber and the nozzle-chamber, we laid gravel around the pipework to help some of the pumped groundwater eventually filter back into these old drainage channels.
Spring's foundations, 30th May, 4:50pm
30th May, 4:50pm
4th June, 4:25pm
30th May: Dusk
12th June 2008: The unveiling. Spring is permanently installed at Ragley Hall, Warwickshire, although Jerwood Sculpture at Ragley has now closed.