Platform Two – RCA

* Fossils of Barking

Author: Merel Karhof


The last 4 month’s I’ve been working with a London based architect, MUF. They work on a arboretum in Barking, a deprived area of London. The first time I visited Barking it appeared really gray to me. I couldn’t find any charm in it. After my first visit I created an alter ego, a ‘mould maker’. As my alter ego ‘the mould maker’ I visited Barking. By looking trough the eye’s of a mould maker, Barking started to give the impression of being totally different to me. I found beautiful prints and patterns. Stuff that you in general nearly see.

A small print on a mailbox becomes something really precious when you remove all the noise around it and isolate it from it’s setting. 
In order to actual print the patterns from the street during my journeys to Barking, I designed a toolkit that contains all the tools I need to make the prints. The kit contains:
plasticine, labels, storage boxes, disposable photo camera and a map of barking to map the origin of the print.









the toolkit

city patternplasticineimg_5180

mapping city moulds












At those journeys ‘the mould maker’ started to copy city patterns. Each pattern has it’s own place and it’s own story. By doing this I started to look at Barking with other eyes. What initially appeared as gray and ugly place, became a nice and full of history place. With my Barking project I want to show and tell the inhabitants of Barking this history. For example I found these three swords on London Bridge Road, “the three swords are the “Seaxes” which are the symbol of the County of Essex.  Barking & Dagenham were inside the Essex County Council area until 1965, when they were transferred to Greater London.  The plaque with the swords is on the London Road bridge which was opened in 1904.” *

* Linda Rhodes, Local Studies Librarian, London Borough of Barking & Dagenham 


london bridge road_merel karhof











An other example of what I found was this, flower on the local police station at Ripple Road. “In 1890 Rippleside then was only a small village, stretching from the cemetery to the Chequers in Dagenham. Along Ripple Road were isolated farms and groups of cottages, which were occupied mainly by farm workers. Ripple Road itself was fairly narrow and overhanging trees, which were in the main elms, were seen on each side of the road, which was bounded by high banks and hedges.” *

*, may 3rd, 2009
ripple road_barking_merel karhof
Now I have the collected patterns, I can start creating products with them, this in order to bring the stories to the people of Barking.
At first the pattern came together in a chair for the local library of Barking. The chair was part of an library event with writer Yemisi Blake []. In collaboration with the writer the stories of Barking where spread for the first time.  
barking chair

The second product I’m working on on the moment is a set of plates, which will hang, like heraldry, on the wall of the library of Barking. For the design I only used flowers, because are the oldest way of creating decorations. Ones a year I would like to organize a dinner in the Arboretum, which is build on the moment by MUF architects, the people of Barking will be invited and eat from the plates. By doing this I also create a link between the library and the arboretum, which was a wish of the library when we initially started to collaborate. 

plates_merel karhof
For the Arboretum I was asked by the architects to continue on the idea of the library chair in order to create a permanent seat for it. The chair will contain an imploded history of Barking, with in the seat a map of the chair with the stories connected to it. This will also tell the inhabitants how to discover the patterns in the borough. 
leg07leg_test_merel karhof leg05leg03_test_merel karhof
Other projects I’m working on are, jewelry, cutlery, glasses and tablecloth. For the jewelry created an alphabet of Barking. All letters are found again on the street.
For the future I would like to continue on this project. I started to build an archive of mapped patterns in Barking, but I’m quite curious how patternized other parts of London are, or what kind of stories I will find in other deprived areas in the world. 


south kensington_merel karhof         south kensington_merel karhof02south kensington_merel karhof03





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