They might look like someone’s party balloons have floated off and got stuck in trees, or give you a feeling of paranoia and being watched after dark. But they are actually part of a London-wide temporary art installation, and more could follow this autumn which would mean Tottenham Court Road could be closed from several side streets.
The inflatable eyeballs are designed by artist Filthy Luker and can be seen in trees across the city in August as part of the Mayor of London’s plan to cajole families to come and enjoy what the capital has to offer this summer. In Fitzrovia you can see two pairs of eyes hanging outside 101 Tottenham Court Road.
Also dreamt up by the Mayor’s office is a plan to brighten up the road surface with a series of dazzling artworks.
The Asphalt Art project is part of the Greater London Authority’s Let’s Do London events programme which aims to boost cultural, hospitality and retail sectors.
Camden Council is being asked to approve a project to paint up to 11 pedestrian crossings on the carriageway along Tottenham Court Road. The colourful crossings would be a temporary art installation to coincide with the London Design Festival.
The project is a creation by London-based artist Yinka Ilori and designed to draw people back to Camden’s streets to support local businesses.
“This work will be mostly funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies who have supported a range of international projects introducing art into the public realm,” states a report for Cllr Adam Harrison, the cabinet member for a sustainable Camden.
The designs have yet to be decided upon but the report states that a short engagement period will take place with the involvement of all stakeholders.
An equalities impact assessment for Camden cautions it is “possible that the vibrant nature of the artwork could cause sensory overload” for some people, and that any “proposed design change from the ‘norm’ at signalised crossings is likely to confuse older and disabled people as well as drivers”.
TfL have also raised the question of the impact on drivers with colour blindness. However, Camden officers have responded saying: “We do not consider that this would affect driver behaviour or interpretation as drivers would observe the same patterns as the wider public but would see the specific colours differently. There are many instances of coloured/patterned crossings in London that are on bus routes, including on the TfL road network,” states the EIA.
A number of pedestrians have been injured after being struck by drivers of buses and other vehicles on Tottenham Court Road since April 2019 when the road layout was changed as part of the West End Project. Four pedestrians were struck in separate collisions by bus drivers at the junction with Torrington Place.
A decision on the Asphalt Art project is due to be taken on 26 August 2021.
Update 24 August 2021: Camden Council have now advertised a number of temporary road closures for September and November to accommodate the art project. If implemented all at once the temporary restrictions could divert a large amount of motor traffic through Charlotte Street and Goodge Street if Maple Street is closed at the junction with Tottenham Court Road.
We asked Camden for further information about how the restrictions would be implemented.
In a statement to Fitzrovia News a spokesperson for Camden said: “The advertised Temporary Traffic Order relates to a proposed project as part of the Greater London Authority’s tourism and events campaign Let’s Do London. This project is still undergoing the required comprehensive review process and the Camden Council decision making process is still ongoing. When the process is complete and if the project proceeds, further details will be made available residents, businesses and stakeholders.”
Update 27 August 2021: The decision has now been taken approving the Asphalt Art project and further decisions on the project delegated to officers. While originally proposed as a temporary art installation for for two or three months it is now being considered for a longer period.
“On 23 August 2021, London Borough of Camden received a request from the Greater London Authority for the artwork to remain in place for a year,” states an addendum to the report on the project.
Fitzrovia News has asked Camden for further information and will publish more details when we have them.