‘Alphonso’, 2021
Handmade brick, glazed brick and hand painted tiles
3.2m x 6m x 2m
Willow Lake, Newton Leys, Bucks.

Milton Keynes Council has commissioned Sarah Staton to develop and deliver a new public artwork for Willow Lake, Newton Leys, Buckinghamshire, UK.

Staton has created ‘Alphonso’ – a unique three-sided shape shifting structure that has the capacity to disappear twice -  when viewed from its narrowest angle the sculpture appears as a narrow construction, its length and breath removed by the effect of foreshortening. Alphonso disappears again when viewed from across the lake, its blue and white tiled facade merges into the sky.

The sculptural form includes two decorative walls connected with an archway and incorporates a bench overlooking the beautiful environment across and around Willow Lake. Taking inspiration from local heritage, in particular the former brickworks.

Sarah describes developing the design process as ‘….beginning with imagination and once the idea of the form appeared in my mind's eye, I began to think about the images that would adorn the sculpture. How to include elements from Newton Leys today, and also refer to the brick making history of the site together in one place? Early on in the design process, I thought Alphonso would look most interesting if handmade bricks were used on the east elevation, creating a richly nuanced speckled brown surface, and this to be complemented with fresh blue and white tiles on the west side. Using these materials that connect past to present, the fishing lake is referenced pictorially. I had been very struck by the way that blue and white tiling is used on cathedrals and churches in Portugal to create the illusion of transparency when viewed from a distance against the sky’.

Staton worked closely with the Newton Leys Public Art Commission Steering Group. Early in the design process the Steering Group visited the brick maker and were shown the various measures put in place to increase sustainability, including extracting clay on site, harvesting wood locally, and the use of state of the art wood fired kilns. A second group visit took in Rushton Lodge, the artist was able to share her enthusiasm for this delightful triangular building, designed by Sir Thomas Tresham (father of one of the Gunpowder Plotters) and constructed between 1593 and 1597. It is a physical symbol building of Tresham’s Roman Catholicism: the number three, symbolising the Holy Trinity, is apparent everywhere. There are three floors, trefoil windows and three triangular gables on each side. The building was designed when Tresham was imprisoned for his Catholicism, and was defiantly constructed on his release.

Alphonso was completed in September 2021, produced with a Section 106 budget of £150k.