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Cornwall Design Season, 2011

This article was written 10 years ago.

In 2011 I was selected and one of five up-and-coming writers to create editorial content for Cornwall Design Season. The content appeared within shipping container installations, a leafet and on the website. I wrote copy about the Tate St Ives, The Wave Hub, Plain an Gwarry, the Minack theatre and clothing brand Seasalt.
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The Wave Hub

Cornwall’s waves have long provided exhilaration for surfers and inspiration for artists. They create the sand on the beaches and shape the coastline. And soon they could be providing electricity for the UK.

‘Switched on’ in November 2010, the Wave Hub is a testing ground for new technologies designed to convert the abundant energy in the waves off the North Cornish coast into electricity.

The Hub is essentially a socket in the ocean’s floor which test devices can plug into. It has a 16km cable, just 16cm in diameter, which transmits the electricity generated to the mainland and the National Grid.

The South West peninsula is in a unique geographical position for such experiments, because it faces into the powerful prevailing westerly Atlantic swell. Which puts Cornwall in a unique economic position too; leading the way in world wave and tidal technologies and putting the UK on the energy map. By 2050 the sector could be worth £2bn, with the potential to create up to 16,000 jobs.

Waves are the fabric of day-to-day life in Cornwall and have shaped the county’s history. Now it seems with the launch of the Wave Hub, they might also be the shape of the future.

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Tate St Ives

Everything is a product of its environment, and nothing more so than the Tate St Ives; a striking, modernist interpretation of its location.

Award-winning architects, husband and wife team Evans and Shalev designed the glazed atrium to mimic the demolished gas tower it replaced. The main building reflects the post-war buildings that previously ran along Porthmeor Beach.

In 1993, when the Tate opened, it was clear they had created a piece of architecture perfect for Cornwall; yet iconic on an international scale.

Once inside, the Tate’s layout echoes St Ives’ winding lanes, squares and alleys, creating a series of small, intimate areas.

Evans and Shalev wanted visitors to the Tate to experience Cornish art in the surroundings in which it was created. So you see it by the clear Atlantic light that drew so many artists to Cornwall. And glimpses of the sea are a constant reminder of what inspired much of the work on show.

Plans for Phase Two echo that respect for the Tate’s surroundings. A new wing and extra space for works in the vaults are being developed in parallel with plans for neighbouring social housing to ensure the two work together seamlessly.

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Seasalt

For many of us, the essence of Cornwall can be summed up in one motion. Standing by the sea and breathing in deeply; then breathing out. What makes award-winning brand Seasalt successful is that it seems to do the same thing – metaphorically at least – all day, every day.

The Seasalt team’s design process is led by ‘breathing in’ all that is Cornish; walks in the woods or along the coast are followed by leaf rubbings, hand drawings, block printing and mixing up dyes. Designer Sophie Chadwick inhales her sea view daily. Photoshoots suck up inspiration-rich locations, from the Jubilee Pool, Penzance, to Seasalt director David Chadwick’s back garden. The result? Functional clothing with a creative edge.

Then comes the ‘breathing out’; taking stock, being accountable. Seasalt is committed to having a positive social and environmental impact. As a company, it’s the largest producer of Soil Association certified organic clothing in the UK; 61% of its clothing is currently certified, and that figure is growing all the time. It ensures its suppliers meet ethical trading standards. It cares about the local community, with projects ranging from sponsoring recycling bins to getting local people knitting to raise money for charity.

Breathe in, breathe out. It’s a great design principle.

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The Minack Theatre

In the words of Thomas Edison “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”

Rowena Cade’s light bulb moment came in 1931 while looking for a venue for a production of the Tempest.

The rugged coastline gave her own garden the perfect backdrop, but a lack of seating led to the inspired idea of creating a stage above Minack Rock.

Little did she realise then that she was embarking on a life’s work.

Over the next six winter months Cade, with gardener Billy Rawlings and Charles Angove, built an amphitheatre.

The 1932 production of the Tempest was a roaring success, even getting a mention in the Times. The ‘theatre under the stars’ was born.

Cade improved the site over the next seven years and then restored it after World War Two. When new dressing rooms were needed, she single-handedly carried 12 wrecked 15foot wooden beams from the beach.

Now, you can see anything from Shakespeare to the Fantastic Mr. Fox at the Minack. You can warm your hands around a hot chocolate, keeping one eye on the breathtaking view beyond. And for that you can be grateful to Cade’s years of perspiration as well as one moment of inspiration.

Cornwall Design Season