Fire in the Sky, Southampton

‘a space’ arts was asked to facilitate a new public art commission for a development of student accommodation in the centre of Southampton. The development at Capital House saw the extensive refurbishment and conversion of an existing 1970s 12 story office building with additional accommodation provided in 11 four story townhouses.

Research into the history of the surrounding site revealed that it once hosted a Brass Foundry owned by a Mr James Joseph Wolff (1797-1845). ‘James Wolff contributed much to the gaiety of Southampton in the 1830s and 40s with his flags and firework displays’. In 1843 Wolff received a large order for canons and gunpowder for the Mexican Government. These were loaded onto a small ship, the Tartar, at Southampton docks. During the night of 2nd June the ship caught fire resulting in a spectacular series of explosions that woke up the entire city.

‘The assemblage of spectators was immense – the Marsh, Bridge Road, the walls of the Railway Terminus, the shores of Itchen Beach, Platform, Quay, Pier, vessels in the harbour, the towers of St Michael‟s and Holy Rhood, and every spot from which a view could be obtained being crowded.’

To give a sense of the story of James Wolff and the Tartar ‘a space’ worked with Southampton based illustrator Guy Stauber on a large mural and window graphics in the entrance to the new student accommodation.