The forlorn half-acre roof terrace above Temple Station has surely never lived up to the expectations of its principal designer, Sir Joseph Bazalgette, who in 1870 must have envisaged it as a sanctuary, away from the grimy hubbub below.
Inevitably, one feels, the same spot in Paris would be chic and bijoux, a place to sit and watch this busy stretch of river, glimpsed through a shifting screen of plane trees.
In its new incarnation as The Artist’s Garden, the roof terrace provides the setting for a series of new works by emerging artists, commissioned by theCoLAB in partnership with Westminster City Council.
The inaugural intervention by London artist Lakwena Maciver – known as Lakwena – fulfils the potential of this space in the most unlikely way. Her robust response to this unpromising expanse of grey is to cover it in geometric patterns, created using the sort of brightly coloured, interlocking tiles favoured by toddlers.
The good news is that toddlers love it, its cheerful chequerboards and stripes making an ideal place to try out some extemporised dance moves, or just do some jumping, while the similarly patterned, specially constructed “Artist’s Hut” makes a great backdrop for photos.
After a miserable 18 months, it seems only right that the enjoyment of our long-suffering smaller citizens is made a priority.
Everyone else seems perfectly content with the psychedelic vibe too, and it’s surprisingly restful, on a sunny day, to sit and watch the colours modulate under moving shadows, and to lose yourself in the series of rhythmic patterns evocatively titled Back in the Air: A Meditation on Higher Ground.
For those phone calls that can only be done while pacing up and down, Lakwena’s designs offer diverting, colour-filled paths, and it’s fascinating to watch the men in suits (always men) striding along, apparently unaware of their contribution to art.
The unlikely meeting of minds between small children and stressed-out businessmen may explain Lakwena’s otherwise perplexing slogan, “Nothing Can Separate Us”, painted on a wooden platform that stretches across the terrace’s eastern end.
The painting will eventually be moved to a gallery location, while the tiles – “made with an own formula of polypropylene copolymer with UV stabilizer”, and definitely not plastic – will be reused in another Lakwena work.
It’s here until the spring, and if it’s kept clean and the UV stabilizers do their job properly, Lakwena’s cheerful intervention will be a genuinely positive enhancement through the winter months.