Why is Damien Hirst trying to build a village?

The artist has plans to turn his South Devon farmland into a 750-home residential development
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Plans for South Ilfracombe New Community, Devon
Plans for South Ilfracombe New Community, Devon

North Devon Council's planning application no. 56675 doesn't have the look of an artistic master-work. The documents, outlining South Ilfracombe New Community, a proposed 750-dwelling residential development, complete with a shopping centre, playing fields, a primary school, and other amenities, read much like the other well-planned conurbations overseen by its formal applicants David Lock Associates, one of Britain’s leading town planners.

However, the BBC reports that one of South Ilfracombe New Community's main backers, proponents and and landowners is the artist Damien Hirst. Hirst relocated to Devon towards the beginning of this century, and lent Ilfracombe his 20-metre high statue of nude pregnant woman, Verity, last year; it currently stands on the town's waterfront.

 

Plans for South Ilfracombe New Community, Devon
Plans for South Ilfracombe New Community, Devon

Hirst bought Winsham Farm, land at the centre of the development, about ten years ago, and is now chief among a group of landowners who want to see this site developed. “He has a horror of building anonymous, lifeless buildings,” says architect Mike Rundell, whose clients include Sam Taylor Wood, Tracey Emin and Keith Tyson, “He wants these houses to be the kind of homes he would want to live in.”

Exactly what kind of a home that is, and how it might suit the needs and means of local people is as yet unclear. Not everyone surveyed by the BBC were wholly supportive of the scheme yet, if he and his partners manage to build South Ilfracombe New Community, the scheme could help address the shortage of affordable housing in the West of England.

To find out more about this, go here. For more on what does and doesn't constitute art, consider our canonical book, Defining Contemporary Art, and for greater insight into life in conurbations, take a look at our book, Living In The Endless City. Buy them from the people who made them, here.


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