“We wanted to create something tangible to raise awareness of women's safety”
As the sky darkened across Sheffield on Thursday 22 July, a small corner of the Ponderosa was lit up by a new piece of public art.
A poem highlighting women’s experiences of harassment - laser cut into the wooden sculpture - was illuminated from within, as students from the Department of Landscape Architecture and members of campaign group Our Bodies Our Streets looked on.
The installation - which has been part funded by the Department of Landscape Architecture - aims to help raise awareness of women’s safety in public spaces.
MLA student Emma Beaumont and BA Landscape Architecture second year Alison Romaine have played key roles in designing and delivering the temporary artwork, working collaboratively with groups across the city.
We spoke to Emma about the experience.
Why did you feel the lighting installation was important to do?
“We should all be able to enjoy the city’s public spaces without fear of being harassed. Now more than ever, we understand how important being in green spaces is to our emotional and physical wellbeing. Sheffield is the ‘outdoor city’ and takes pride in its many wonderful green spaces - but we’ve got to make sure that all its residents can access and spend time in these.
“The beauty of public art is that it can send such a powerful message to so many people. We’re delighted to have this piece installed at such a prominent location in the city, and hope that it helps spread the message of how important it is that the women of Sheffield feel safe outdoors.”
How did the lighting intervention come about?
"We wanted to create something tangible to raise awareness of the issues of public sexual harassment and women's safety in Sheffield’s public spaces. Lighting in public open spaces at night is a huge element of such issues, so we wanted that to be incorporated in our design.
“The importance of co-design and community engagement within planning processes is something we have campaigned for, so we wanted this ethos to extend to our installation too. We conducted a poetry call out on social media and received some beautiful and powerful poems from women of Sheffield, which feature as the main element of the sculpture. It also features parts of our experience map; a collaborative digital map that has allowed women of Sheffield to drop a pin and share their experiences of safety across the city's public spaces.
"Our Landscape Architectural education has been invaluable in the design and organisation of this installation; it's embedded in us as designers, for inclusivity to be at the heart of our work and the importance of making Sheffield's parks and green spaces safe and accessible for all."
MLA Landscape Architecture
“This sends a powerful visual message of the issue of public sexual harassment in our city, which we hope will resonate with residents. We believe that such information is vital in informing planning processes and targeting design interventions where they are most needed.
“It took a lot of liasing with the council and the university to get approval for this intervention, so we are very pleased to have got the go-ahead to install it, as well as the generous funding from the Department of Landscape Architecture to realise our vision!”
How did what you have learned on your Landscape Architecture degrees influence your thinking?
"Our Landscape Architectural education at the University of Sheffield has been invaluable in the design and organisation of this installation, particularly the strong social focus of the department's teaching.
“It's embedded in us as designers for inclusivity to be at the heart of our work, particularly for work that highlights the importance of making Sheffield's parks and green spaces safe and accessible for all.
“The placement of the sculpture within the Ponderosa means it's easy to get to, the nature of the design is clear and legible no matter your level of education, and the material has been chosen to minimise any potential harm to the public interacting with it.
“Our design skills also helped us create something both aesthetically pleasing as well as being both structurally and materially appropriate. All of these skills we've learned through the department were crucial in getting permission from the City Council to go ahead with this ambitious project; skills which are an essential part of being a Landscape Architect.”
Emma added: “We'd like to thank the Department of Landscape Architecture and in particular Professor Anna Jorgensen for funding this installation, as well as anyone who donated to our crowdfunding. Also the poets whose work features on the sculpture.”