Making Ordnance Survey into a work of art

The Lakes Ignite programme for 2018 features an OS-inspired work of art called Ordnance Pavilion, paying homage to the trig pillar and the work of OS surveyors in mapping Great Britain. It’s flattering to be an artist’s muse, but we wonder if it’s not the first time OS has inspired an artwork…

Ordnance Pavilion

Created by Studio MUTT, Ordnance Pavilion is an interactive installation in the Langdale Estate in the Lake District. It forms part of Lakes Ignite 2018 which presents six contemporary artworks to celebrate the Lake District’s designation as a World Heritage site. On display between until July 2018, Ordnance Pavilion is a celebration of OS and how our maps have impacted people’s interaction with the landscape.

“Ordnance Pavilion celebrates the world heritage landscape through the lens of the OS Map. As an artefact the OS map data is perfectly ordinary. But it has been a conduit for our human relationship with the landscape in many ways – its geographical conditions as well as the man-made constructions across it.

The piece is a synthesising and recombining of recognisable forms that you may come across in the Lake District. Two inhabitable spaces within the piece act as single person art galleries, one displaying the measured and the other exploring the act of measuring.”

The team were inspired by surveyors in our past and the work they did in building trig pillars, scaling mountains and mapping the whole country. You can find out more about this on our blog.

If you’d like to see it for yourself, it’s located behind Wainwrights’ Inn on the Langdale Estate.


Terris Novalis

If you’ve been along C2C, Sustrans’ most popular challenge cycle route, since 1997 then you may well have spotted Terris Novalis. The cycle route passes through the northern Lake District before climbing the Pennines, and descending to the railway paths of County Durham. When you reach the site of the former Consett steelworks, grid reference NZ106503, there are two huge metal sculptures by Tony Cragg.

Giant versions of two nineteenth-century surveyor’s instruments have been created in stainless steel – a theodolite (used for measuring horizontal angles) and a level (used for establishing the relationship between a surface to the horizontal). The base of the theodolite has been fitted with steel representations of severed limbs, a human hand, a horse’s foot and the foot of a lizard-like creature. The level stands on a horse’s foot, a lion’s paw and the foot of a lizard-like creature.

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Instruments like these were used by surveyors in our past, with theodolites being attached to the top of trig pillars to make measurements late into the 20th century. Not only that, but the founding point of OS was marked by the purchase on a theodolite back in June 1791. Read more about OS’ Ramsden theodolite here.


South West Coast Path

Currently the longest complete National Trail in England and Wales, the South West Coast Path stretches for 630 miles, running from Minehead in Somerset, along the coasts of Devon and Cornwall, to Poole Harbour in Dorset.

At the start (or end) of the trail in Minehead is a 3-metre high sculpture of two hands holding a paper map. Designed by Sarah Ward and sculpted by Owen Cunningham, the front grid of the map is open so that the sky and landscape can be seen and the north coast of Somerset is shown in cut-out metal.

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It’s a fitting tribute to the long distance trail to show a map, which we like to think is an OS map, to help guide people along the trail. Did you know that it’s one of the most challenging trails? If you walk the full length, it’s the equivalent height to climbing Everest four times…


If you spot any more OS- or map-related artworks, let us know!

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