Bow School

Bow Arts for Bow School

About the Project

Commissioned by Bow Arts and working closely with London Borough of Tower Hamlets and Bow School, make:good responded to a brief to help redesign a tired looking underpass beneath the busy A12 in East London – leading to the site of the newly built Bow secondary school. The school also wanted an entrance gate which would be welcoming and eye-catching.


July 2013 – March 2014 & launched June 2014

Our Tools & Approach

We involved the school’s ‘Core Commissioning Group’ of students who significantly helped inform the design brief. We began with an activity titled ‘taking a line for a walk’, experimenting with how our journeys could be used as a tool for drawing and mark making. This workshop with the students helped us to identify a number of key elements of the brief. In particular, the group were keen for the artwork to ‘motivate’ people along their journey, and for it to feel ‘ever changing’ like the current built landscape of East London. One pupil suggested motivational words on the step risers which were carried through to the finished design.

We also involved members of the surrounding community and businesses as the new school was to be a significant change to the area, and needed to build good relationships with its neighbours. With the idea of ‘motivation’ in mind, we asked hundreds of local people ‘what advice would you give to your 13 year old self if you could?’ and collected words of wisdom from all over the area. These words inspired a number of semi-permanent pedestrian way finding clues in the form of asphalt floor tiles.

The students wanted to capture the ever-changing local skyline shapes in the subway artwork. Using the process of collage, we began by creating an abstracted vision of the landscape, to be constantly unravelling to reveal something different each time you look at it. After a trip to Tate Modern’s Matisse ‘The Cut Outs’ exhibition the students also contributed their own collaged elements to the artwork.

At the centre of the design for the subway is a dynamic line that invites curiosity and movement, weaving through the buildings, bridges, and other elements.

We wanted the design to capture the textures of place and patterns formed by people, so worked closely with a group of local knitters who helped create a number of unique textures for the collage. We then invited the Core commissioning group of teenagers along to learn how to knit, including experimenting with alternatives like wire and string.

All of these components and narratives fed into the finished design which is a colourful, and uplifting journey through an ever-changing skyline of curiosity and movement.

The underpass itself is 40 metres long, with 2 facing walls and was installed with digitally printed Art Tiles which were manufactured in the UK. The entrance walls to the underpass were also painted to match the artwork and a large mural spelling ‘Believe in Yourself’ was hand painted on the school side of the walkway. The floor asphalts were installed by students along the walking route to and from school. The underpass was proudly opened by the Core Commissioning group, Sir Nicholas Serota and Michael Craig Martin.