Tag Archives: Ice Cream Vans

…Of Crates


The milk crates – stuffed into the back of the vans with little written instruction – give the means by which to create a forum at a variety of scales. A Driver with a story to tell – perhaps from a text dropped into his van – can begin the Forum…

Here a number of Drivers have converged, signalling the progression of a Forum with their chimes and adding more crates as the crowd approached its critical mass..

Warmth and light are integrated into the crates by the Makers…old car headlamps and seat heaters put to new uses, powered by old 6V car batteries, emanating a glow that combats the winter discomfort…

This drawing has been another exercise in production for me – I wanted to make the crowd look varied in appearance, rather than simply repeating a set of standard CadBlock line drawings. I again looked to the combination of Google Sketchup’s 3D Warehouse and Adobe Illustrator, and found a set of 3D people modelled as a group. I took that group, exploded it and arranged the figures in a variety of combinations, taking 2D DWG linework exports as I went from a variety of angles. This produced quick, non-uniform silhouettes that I could stroke and fill in Illustrator, controlling the opacity to create a densely layered effect…


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A Forum…

The operator of tea wagon curates the fractious knowledge of the Wick – he can collect an dispense well, as he is elevated about his customers…

I would suppose that the form of the Forum evolved as spectators became entrepreneurial, eager to see over those in front. Debris would have been appropriated, forming an amphitheatre-like construction that – however temporary and unsure – would have created the architecture of the event; that of the airing and sharing of knowledge, stories and important information.

What if the Ice Cream Vans loose in the Wick could operate both singularly and concurrently to create a forum? An exponential event that would draw out the stories and knowledge of the Wick, attracting passers-by and intentional participants alike before reaching critical mass and dispersing without a trace?

Ice Cream – made from milk – offers the building blocks of a potential forum…

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Ice Cream Vans – Drivers and the Factory for Makers

Ice Cream Vans – that, as discussed, transform the spatial relationships around them when they deploy – operate at the mercy of the seasons and our reaction to them. This is why they are forced into hibernation at Mr Freeze-O-Cream’s yard in the winter…

As such their spatial effect is temporal at multiple scales. On the scale of seasons, they either transform space or they do not. At the scale of afternoons, they transform space temporarily dependent on how they are arranged within the spatial environment and in relation to us, as (coded) human beings – as ‘actors’.

What if you could take this second reading – that of minutes and hours – and apply it to an inversion of the first reading? A winter use for these transient spatial transformers…

Hackney Wick – as we have seen – is a place behind doors. A place of privacy and elected isolation. A place that engages with you on its terms. During the cold winter months, its detached occupants emerge only when necessary…hurrying between places, going to and from engagements and employment (legitimate or otherwise), or to grab a cup of hot tea from a curiously parked wagon on Prince Edward Road. Escape characterizes engagement, and this temporary installation represents the paradox by which the most temporary of occupants holds the most complete of pictures…

Information exchanged by way of a middleman. Transaction grants a shared snippet and tempts the guarded soul, satisfying that which is deprived behind the weary wall do of studios, workshops and warehouses.

What if these Makers had another way of affecting their environment,whilst remaining hidden enough to enjoy its anonymous effects? The factory growing at Monier Road gives them a place to go – to tinker and fiddle when business is slow. Arriving through tunnels, through alleys and through multiple entrances, the makers, constructors, artists and engineers work flexi-time in the factory – creating interventions to be strewn anonymously around the Wick. The thickness of a wall protects them from the other visitors to the yard – those that come seeking the thrill of a risk. Those that pick up the keys to a blacked-out, converted Ice Cream Van having never seen another soul amongst the fences and debris…whilst the Makers disperse, back out through their tunnels and alleys to their eyries high in old industry to witness the effects of their labour. Limited by an unknown curfew, the Drivers tear out into the backstreets to make the most of their random allocations

The risk is what attracts the Drivers…what could descend from the gantry to occupy the next few hours of their lives? What – sealed in the van – must they deal with until the automaton steers its way home?

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Ice Cream Vans – Van Modification

In order to deliver alternate equipment and carry alternate ‘actors’, the vans would need modification

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Ice Cream Vans – (Alternate Spatial Production)

The same delivery mechanism (the van – a temporary passing or pausing of a certain device in a space) could have other spatial effects dependent on its content (equipment, ‘actors’, etc).

In this case the deployment transforms the area into a cinema – ‘actors’ adopt a different spatial relationship to each other, to the van and to their environment – and a different (coded) ‘space’ is produced.

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Ice Cream Vans & Spatial Production…

I have produced this drawing in direct response to the advice that I should formally explore the spatial production of my chosen condition in Hackney Wick (that of the hibernating Ice Cream Vans…), in order to complement the informal reading of the condition conducted here.

I am interested in how the van and its operative intervene temporarily in a given space, influencing the spatial relationships between individuals and groups and between those ‘actors’ and their environment. For example, when the van comes to rest in a given spot, that spot temporarily becomes a ‘shop’ under the influence of codes relating to commerce, exchange and service. Etiquette also comes into play as queues are formed, bringing with them the associative baggage of social conduct and public behaviour – the things we do in queues are given a space in which to manifest themselves. The way that queue forms – its size, shape and density – are a product of the van and the environemnt in which it sits temporarily, framed by the van’s chimes. The production of a certain type of (coded) ‘space’ is both initiated and terminated by a music signal – a code of transformation and temporal change.

What else can be given a temporary lease of life? What spatial relationships can form or be transformed by the passing and pausing of objects and people? Can you release architecture for a limited time only?

Producing this drawing has also been an exercise in production. At a new school I am exposed to new working methods, often using a combination of tools with which some I am familiar and some I am not. In this example, I was able to find a detailed model of an ice cream van in Google Sketchup’s 3D Warehouse, slice it up using section planes (also in Sketchup) and then export a line drawing of a particular perspective view in DWG format (after using Sketchup’s ‘Styles’ window to give me a clean, linework view of the model). I could then open this line drawing in Adobe Illustrator, giving me ‘vectors’ that I could clean up (this process innevitably produced excess linework) and assign stroke weight and colours to. The advantage of using Illustrator over a straight 2D Graphic export to Photoshop is that the image is scalable without losing and resolution (it works using vector rather than raster images). Illustrator is also great for assembling multiple images (in PSD, PDF, JPEG…whatever format) into a single ‘collage’. It’ll update those images as you alter the originals too, so its great at providing a ‘working drawing’ that evolves in real time as you refine it. I used a combination of linework in Illustrator, exporting it to Photoshop to add colour and textures before re-importing it to Illustrator for final assembly. In Illustrator you can also ‘trace’ photographs of people (by importing the photograph, drawing a path using the pen tool on a separate layer and then deleting the photograph) to give you scalable scale figures. Printing out base drawings (such as the plan view of the ice cream van) at a reasonable scale enabled me to draw in context (such as paving or verges) quicker by hand than I could produce a decent looking image digitally. Upon scanning that hand drawn image back into the computer, I could also easily reposition it around the digital linework due to the virtue of it having been traced.

The use of Adobe Illustrator (which I had not touched prior to coming to Sheffield) and a hybrid way of working (constantly flipping between my hands and various pieces of software) was the new bit for me in all of this – something I hope to continue and improve in this Studio.

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Conversation with Joe’s Ices…

As part of my research for my studio project, I tried to rent an ice cream van…I rang Joe’s Ices based here in Sheffield. Previous attempts to act directly in Hackney Wick failed, as calls to the Mr Freezocream yard on Fish Island resulted in a very short conversation – in very bad English – with a guy who claimed only to own the land where the Freezocream yard is based. He said a man paid him some money – cash – to leave the vans there over winter, but that he had to contact details for him…

I tried to map the conversation as it happened in the following image…


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Ice Cream Vans…(hibernation)

Hi Sam,

This is good.Yes, a detailed study of the van is also needed.

Two other things to think about:

1. Zoom out – you need to study this condition from a slightly larger distance – one where you cansee the context of the space AND start to draw the vans migration out from the site across eastLondon. How does the situation you are looking at fit in with the immediate context? I have got to sayan axo would be good for this. Figure out how to draw one in a quick way (simple sketch up > print >hand trace?) then layer up all of your thoughts onto it.

2. You have explained the informal reading very well. Compliment it with the formal version of eachsituation or observation.Once you have done these 3 things (two above plus the van study), you need to review all the themesand issues that you have raised (clearly state what your intervention will be about) and then work onproposing an intervention that disrupts or changes things, as discussed.

Hope this helps,




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Mr Freeze-O-Cream Yard, Monier Road

At the Mr Freeze-O-Cream yard on Monier Road, Fish Island, Ice Cream Vans wait out the winter until once again they can roam London’s sizzling sideroads and crisping parks. Trapped, they take refuge under tarpaulins and hide from the frost, yet still glow in vibrant contrast to the drab concrete and brick of the Wick, holding a promise of summer to come

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Ice Cream Vans

I want my studio this year to be light-hearted, more fun, less serious…

The Ice Cream Van’s hide in Hackney Wick, locked away for the winter…their use, and the use of the spaces they transform through action, temporally permitted by our reaction to climate.

What if they could transform the use of space on a smaller scale (both physically, in relation to their immediate surroundings, and temporally, in relation to a small period of the day when they would be active…minutes or hours, rather than months and seasons)…

Ice Cream Vans, through sounds, could entice footfall through routes otherwise unconsidered…the commuting foot traffic tempted through vacant yards, scrambling up banks and over walls to achieve their mundane but urgent goals…

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