Unleash Your Inner Bear With the “Born to be Wild” Public Artwork
NEON creates some of the best site-specific public artworks out there, and Born to Be Wild stays true to that statement. The permanent installation is centrally located within Keepmoat’s Cable Wharf development in Northfleet, UK, designed so that the public can interact by climbing, sitting on, and walking through it. But Born to Be Wild is more that what meets the eye, as it’s been installed above the buried remains of a bear pit that was a focal attraction of 19th century Victorian gardens.
To preserve the historical structure from further weathering and erosion, English Heritage advised it be re-buried. In response, NEON used the lines of the archaeological drawings of the bear pit to define the sculpture when viewed from overhead. Gently undulating details evoke tree branches, which are of course a part of a bear’s natural environment. This particular way of interacting with Born to Be Wild is intended to be thought provoking – what’s the future relationship between animals and humans?
Mick O’Farrell, Regional Managing Director at Keepmoat, said: “It’s important to us that we celebrate the local history of our sites and their surrounding areas.” Added Mark Nixon of NEON, “We were keen that this project might allow the public to understand what lies beneath their feet while also providing an engaging, functional, and interactive experience. A key component of the project’s success was engagement with the local school children from Rosherville primary school who encouraged our team to make the sculpture even more wild!”
The group of Key Stage 2 students from Rosherville Church of England Primary Academy went through a series of online workshops during Covid that allowed them to explore the artwork and provide feedback. Their responses encouraged the NEON team to make the form much more curvaceous for a more exciting experience when used for play.
“The art installation was originally commissioned to ensure the heritage at Cable Wharf was preserved and based on its popularity within the local community, we believe this has been achieved by the team NEON with the public artwork commemorating the historic bear pit within the Italian garden,” shared Adam Knight, Regional Managing Director at Keepmoat, South Midlands.
The artwork was manufactured by Steeline in ten sections that were bolted together onsite. Born to Be Wild is constructed from 316 stainless steel and painted in a marine grade epoxy paint for durability. Special attention was paid to the foundations that were designed to be shallow so they wouldn’t impact the historic bear pit structure beneath. The artwork was engineered by Elliot Wood.
To learn more about Born to Be Wild, visit neon.uk.
Photography by Simon Anning.