Sited on houses and public buildings across the estate, 17 hand-crafted commemorative plaques have been designed by Leonor Antunes in collaboration with A Practice for Everyday Life. The heritage colours of the plaques are mixed using car paint as a nod to the history of Ford Dagenham, and the bespoke typeface is informed by the earliest maps of the estate.
The plaques are inspired by the geometric shapes found on old maps that depict the streets and housing of the estate, while simultaneously referencing its importance in terms of town planning and architecture through having an explicit connection to designs made by British architect Jane Drew (1911–1996). Drew was central to the team of architects that devised the modernist dream city of Chandigarh, India, built in the 1950–60s and is known for designing social housing outside of the UK, as well as the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London (1964). She has become less well-known compared to her male contemporaries and has suffered from her work being credited to male architects she collaborated with. As with Antunes, Drew made a concerted effort to foreground female architects in a male-orientated industry.
The plaques have been created through an extensive estate-wide nominations process, that sought out a diverse range of residents that have played an important role within their communities, inspirational figures as well as the well-known characters that have all played their part in Becontree’s rich history.
Leonor Antunes has exhibited widely and represented Portugal at the Venice Art Biennale (2019). Engaging with the history of 20th century architecture, design, and art, Antunes reflects on the function of everyday objects and the potential of modernist forms to become sculptures.
Leonor Antunes: Becontree Plaques is co-commissioned by Create London and the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham (LBBD). This commission is funded by LBBD’s Strategic Community Infrastructure Levy.