Rust Garden at Castle Mill Works

Rust Garden

Donovan & Siegel
Outdoor public art installation at Castle Mills, Fountainbridge Edinburgh, Scotland
July 29 – Aug 28, 2016

~ 3m x 11m

Rust Garden transforms a neglected and overgrown nook into an intimate garden space for contemplation. Among the flowering plants is a small bench surrounded by a pathway made of tiny rusted steel letters.

Letterforms that once were combined in specific ways to tell stories, provide direction or demarcate places of importance take on a new significance when disembodied from their original context. Unfixed from plaques and walls, and instead jumbled underfoot as one passes into the garden, their original meaning is deconstructed and becomes unrecognizable. Yet while the rusted letters are a tangible and solemn reminder of our ultimate transience, they also remind us of our immeasurable creative potential. In this way, Rust Garden becomes an ephemeral bridge that straddles two places in time.

In a local context, it refers both to Fountainbridge’s industrial past and the rail corridors that continue to define the area, and also to the redevelopment of the site as the future home of Edinburgh Printmakers.  In a broader sense, Rust Garden evokes a sense of urban decay and the enduring legacy of industry, but it also tells a story of repurposing and — in the context of the garden — transformation and renewal.

Castle Mills Site before garden installation.

Undertaken in collaboration with local urban renewal initiatives (Grove Community Garden, and A Place to Sit) Rust Garden is simultaneously a memorial for the past, a signpost for the future, and a present day playground for the imagination. Just as the wider community seeks to reinvent Fountainbridge as a new cultural center for the city of Edinburgh, passersby inevitably pick letters out from the path to create words, phrases or poems imbued with personal meaning.

Rust Garden opening. Photo credit: Edinburgh Printmakers.

Some of these are set out on the bench or stone wall for other passersby to see, while others will be carried off as token keepsakes. What is left jumbled on the ground will continue to rust and decay, eventually decomposing completely. In this way, Rust Garden invites us to reinvent and find new meaning, even in the face of loss and impermanence.