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Ashford: Alex Chinneck's Tannery Lane zipped building removed ahead of 250-home Kent Wool Growers' application decision

By Charlie Harman

The newest piece by an internationally renowned temporary artist - which saw a disused building turned into a zip three months ago - is being removed today

Having moved to a studio in nearby Brook, Alex Chinneck was commissioned by developer U+I to transform a building on a potential construction site in Ashford's Tannery Lane.

Part of the former Kent Wool Growers' site, the artist added a zip around Brundrett House and seemingly bent its walls to show the building being unzipped.

Work focussed on the "unzipped" sections of Brundrett House on the Kent Wool Growers site
Work focussed on the "unzipped" sections of Brundrett House on the Kent Wool Growers site

Over the last five years, Mr Chinneck has completed a succession of major street sculptures including sliding the brick facade off a three-storey property in Margate; constructing a full-size melting house from 7,500 wax bricks in London Bridge; creating the illusion that a stone building on London’s Covent Garden Piazza was floating in mid-air; and inverting a 37-metre electricity pylon to stand on its tip.

At the Ashford installment's overnight unveiling in July, Mr Chinneck said: "The fact this building's going to be demolished gives us the ability to do something that is hugely creative and I wanted to do something that will allow us to rip the building and see inside.

Alex Chinneck's unzipped art installation in Tannery Lane
Alex Chinneck's unzipped art installation in Tannery Lane
The building's unique zip was removed this morning
The building's unique zip was removed this morning

"I want to introduce flexibility into seemingly solid buildings, as I did with my last Kent piece- the sliding house in Margate.

"The genuine passion is conceiving and delivering large artworks. U+I's main aim is placemaking and starting a new chapter in the site's history and it's a lovely strategy. As bad as the word strategy sounds, I think it's a genuine attempt to make something people will enjoy and remember."

Having taken 11 months to organise and produce, 'Open to the Public' comes ahead of a planning application to put 250 homes on the site. The apartment blocks will range from six to 15 storeys high, with extensive landscaping and a Chinneck-designed loop-the-loop bridge.

An artist's impression of the loop-the-loop bridge designed by Alex Chinneck
An artist's impression of the loop-the-loop bridge designed by Alex Chinneck

This week a decision is expected on the application, perhaps explaining the timing of the temporary zip installment's removal.

Cllr Mike Bennett, Ashford Borough Council portfolio holder for culture, said: “To have an artist of Alex’s calibre and renowned reputation bringing his surreal sense of fun to a disused building and completely change it overnight into a sensational talking point for all who saw it was fantastic. I’m sure this spectacular piece will live long in the memory of those who saw it.”

Architectural sculptor Alex Chinneck has been called a "master of architectural illusion"
Architectural sculptor Alex Chinneck has been called a "master of architectural illusion"

Richard Upton, deputy chief executive at U+I, said: “We are delighted to have facilitated Alex’s work in Ashford this summer. This temporary project was just a teaser, to what we hope to achieve on site. We cannot create amazing places without the collaboration with the local community and we are now discussing ideas for a landmark bridge with Alex. The bridge will have a practical purpose and improve riverside access, in addition to showcasing creativity in Ashford.”

The entire Brundrett House building, built in the 1960s, will be ripped down by the end of the week.

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