Should the three rooms of the space be seen as a triptych?




This is an old image of mine, taken on Dartmoor, near Yes Tor. The structure, which I believe is a military store, crowns a peak and is at once both alien to its landscape, through form and material, and sympathetic to it, through colour. There is nothing vernacular about it, everything functional.


On 14 December 2015, BBC reporter Rupert Wingfield-Hayes recorded a fascinating report into the militarisation of coral reefs in the South China Sea. This includes compelling interactive ‘before/after’ satellite images of the islands, now heavily concreted.


I have a collection of Tywarnhayle mine waste. This is stored according to rock type, location of discovery and appearance.


Today I cast a concrete extension to one of my favourite (I know…) pieces of minewaste – perhaps a runway or jetty. Whatever it is, it is a mismatch on the one hand, and yet on the other, completely sympathetic.


Verdigrised, this weathered ore found in a spoil heap rests, as though floating, on a broken mirror found at the same site.
Tywarnhayle, like so many sites across Cornwall once associated with the mining industry, is littered in signs of this past activity; the mines themselves, sometimes capped in concrete, sometimes topped with wire cones, the spoil, engine houses and other works buildings. Slowly eroding, this evidence highlights not the final consumption of the mineral resources of this landscape, rather the suspension of its economic viability. There was not a single point of market collapse; the history of Tywarnhayle, and indeed mines all over the South West of the UK, is punctuated by periods of inactivity.

Tywarnhayle’s last productive period, around 1906, saw the use of the world’s first commercial froth flotation plant. The process enabled its operators to extract copper from much lower grade ore than previously possible. The concrete foundations of this site (SW 7015 4709)  stagger up the hillside in a series of broken tiers which reveal little of their significance to the casual observer.

Critical to the closure of works across this valley, and beyond, is the fine balance between the cost of extraction and the volatile price of the minerals themselves. It is unlikely that these workings will ever be reopened, despite the resources which remain underground.

The history of this industry is not exclusive to copper mining, nor to this region of the UK; parallels are obvious in other mining sectors as well as much traditional manufacturing.

Using waste from existing spoil heaps, Tywarnhayle’s Elmore vacuum flotation plant extracted lower grade ore previously impossible.