London, UK


The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is situated in Stratford, east London.

Within the park sits Newton's Cottage, a structure built to commemorate the former lock keeper’s cottage.

It sits on a canal, between a pair of gates known as ‘locks’.

 There are many canals in the UK. These were used as a primary mode of transportation form the industrial revolution onwards.

Horses were used to tow the boats along the canals, and lock keepers were responsible for working the locks.

Canal boats carried many different types of cargo, including coal, fuel, weapons and other resources.

 Despite their success as a means of transportation, canals were gradually abandoned as road and rail travel became more efficient.

Our project took place within Newton’s Cottage as an interactive public event.

Our brief was how best to tell the story of the canals to park visitors

Rope is key. By combining a rope-making workshop with role of the horse, audiences can explore the history of the canal in the UK.

Canals in the UK used to be

a primary transportation network.

Many characters were involved in the day-to-day working of canals, including lock keepers, craftsman and horses.

The condition of the canals gradually got worse due to industrial development: canals were no longer a practical means of transportation.


Newton's Cottage, located in the Olympic Park, is a model house where a lock keeper once lived.

Rope work was a crucial skill on the canals, particularly for boats, for example to pull heavy loads, to tow a boat by horse, and to tie boats to wharves. This remains true to this day.

Although canals were built right across the UK, the way they are used has changed.

However, the tools used on the canals have remained the same, especially rope:

the shape of it, how to make it and how to use it.

As a common factor in the life of the canals both in the present

and in the past, rope could help us to tell the story of the canals.

Rope making workshop

Participants can figure out what

craftsmanship is by making a rope with experts.


There are many sorts of experts in canal life, whether cottage builder, lock keeper, boat horse driver, boat builder, boat painter or rope maker.

Rope plays a major role in all of these and is an accessible medium for our event.





                                                 photo by Rahil Ahmad

Big horse installation

The participants decorate a big horse with ropes they have made. It makes them interpret how the horse relates to the rope. We talked to audiences and we had an information board

about canal history beside the horse.


HUMAN ANIMAL MACHINE referred to the concept that when people are with horses towing a boat by a rope, they become a powerful machine. The horse is the engine. We made our horse from wire mesh because it is a MACHINE.

Visual identity

Boat painting is a key factor in canal history.


We needed to mention that in the event too, because it is integral to the identity of each boat: boat paint design stood out. Visitors to the park could recognise it was about the canal. The event title also worked very well to attract attention.

The aim of this event was to give a huge impact to kids. In future, they may be able to reclaim a big horse, rope and cottage from fragments of their memory. It could be a starting point for them to look into the history of the canals. If we had done a pre-event for adults to understand the story of the canals, they might have had a better connection and considered the history more deeply.


                                   photo by Rahil Ahmad

Project member

Arif Wahid

Hannah Rogers

Nele Vos

Pei-Hsin Chen

Takayuki Ishii

Yaqi Zhang