Ground Breaking?

Nina Pope and Karen Guthrie - September 2013

It's several weeks now since the Cambridge University Ground Breaking ceremony we attended to mark, in some way, the beginnings of the new NWC development.

In fact as I type now it's a sunny August day and as far as I can tell Karen and I could be the only human presence on the site - installed as we are at the artists' cottages - two of the few buildings which were already on the site and in fact will remain.

We have heard many descriptions of the new development that will, over the next 15 odd years, evolve on this site - a carbon positive, community focused, green belt encroaching, visionary design which we are told - and to some extent can believe - will indeed be ground breaking.

However, on a drizzly June lunchtime as I cycled along towards the large white marquee marooned in the undeniably muddy lunar landscape the archaeologists (and we) have left for now it seemed hard to see how this ceremony or indeed the 3D models, fly-throughs or artists impressions will help me to really understand or even visualise what it will eventually be like to live here.

Working with the archaeologists, albeit briefly, on peeling back this landscape has genuinely helped me to in some way rewind through time and at least experience some of their contagious and highly informed passion for the past of the site. In fact, I was often struck whilst on the dig by the way an expert could tell us so much everyday detail about life here at a certain point in the past based just on a fragment of bone with a particular blade mark. How can it be so apparently 'easy' for some people to travel backwards and imagine the past so richly, when it seems so difficult to collectively move forwards in time even fifteen years to picture the future development here?

To return to the Ceremony designed to help us do this - I have to admit that curious as I found the swagged marquee mixture of architects, developers and academics and much as I enjoyed the lunch ... it didn't take me personally any closer to seeing the future of the site. To be fair I did have to leave before the team building began (I have to hand over to Karen for this) but as I trundled back along the track to Cambridge 'now' I couldn't stop myself pausing to admire the way nature was still pushing it's way into the space, seasonally oblivious to both the past and the future and perhaps like me - always most interested in the present.



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Nina Pope and Karen Guthrie

Nina Pope and Karen Guthrie met while studying at Edinburgh College of Art and have collaborated as artists since 1995. In 2001 they formed the multi-disciplinary organisation Somewhere that produces ambitious and challenging projects directly engaging with audiences as well as producing films.



Nina Pope and Karen Guthrie

May 2013 to April 2014


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