A few months ago while driving along the M90 in Fife the car nearly left the road…!
It was because I was so surprised at spotting massive earthworks from the motorway where last time I had driven passed there was a surface coal mine. I later established it was the land restoration project Scottish World following opencast coal mining at St Ninians Mine. As opposed to restoring the land to forestry or agriculture Fife Council has given planning consent to create a major land art project. The first phase of the project is due to be completed by 2014 but there are animations of how the whole site is visualized at the client website, Scottish Resource Group.
The site has been designed by artist Charles Jencks. There is some good information at the Education Scotland portal Marks on the Landscape about the concept and design process and the practice of ‘land forming’. It also includes an interesting set of photos of the changing use from coal extraction through ‘landforming’ to emerging land art at St Ninians mine.
Further marks on the land are currently being made at a second restoration project of an opencast coal mining site in Scotland, Crawick Artland. The process of design and construction at Crawick Artland will have a first phase of major works, with marking out having taken place in May 2012, and in a second phase other artists will respond to the site producing further elements.
It is interesting that there are two major regeneration projects in Scotland, both with the same artist, and a third recently opened in Northumberland. In each case there is an aspiration to create new open and green space, establish hubs of cultural and social activity, bring health benefits, and increase economic activity by attracting tourists: rather than land art, perhaps what is being created are multi-functional places?
I wonder if this is the start of a growing trend towards more ambitious / imaginative land art / restoration projects? I am not sure whether there have been any design competitions for these sites and what designs others would have produced. In future, should communities who live closest to such sites have the responsibility for conceiving and designing such places? Clearly with their scale such art interventions will be features in the landscape for centuries, I wonder how they will be viewed by subsequent generations…?