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By Krista Eleftheriou

  • Prehistoric London clay from Crossrail’s new rail tunnels used to make present day art
  • Crossrail launches an Artist in Residence programme, bringing artists and construction workers together
  • Exhibition showcases the Bird Nest made using prehistoric building techniques

Fifty million year old London clay extracted during the building of the new Crossrail rail tunnels has been used to make 21st Century art with a touch of the prehistoric.

The stunning Bird Nest, created by east London sculptor Frank Harris, is exhibiting at the Slade Shows 2013, this week at the University College London.

The unveiling of the unique artwork comes as Crossrail launches its Artist in Residence programme, providing artists the opportunity to use Europe’s largest construction project and its workers as their muses to inspire creative art.

Download Crossrail Artists in Residence Brief, 2013

Following in the footsteps of the highly successful programme for the Olympics last summer, Crossrail is calling for artists to submit their proposals with several Artist in Residence opportunities likely to be available.

Crossrail Chairman Terry Morgan said:  “Crossrail is seeking to inspire and facilitate innovation and creativity in order to leave a lasting legacy beyond the construction of new tunnels and stations.  Our Artist in Residence programme will provide the opportunity for artists to gain unique access to a complex and dynamic construction project that will transform how Londoners travel. Frank Harris’ Bird Nest is a stunning example of what can be achieved by bringing artists and construction workers together.

“Together with the Culture Line that will see eight large scale artworks funded by sponsors installed into the fabric of our new iconic London stations, Crossrail will leave a lasting artistic legacy beyond the construction of a new rail line.”

Final year art student at UCL’s Slade School of Modern Art, Frank Harris specialises in large, functional sculptural installations that connect with their surroundings.

Recycling 1.5 tonnes of London clay from Crossrail’s western tunnels at Westbourne Park was a perfect fit for his artwork. Frank Harris mixed the clay with straw and sand to create the building material, cob. Cob has been used since prehistoric times to make shelters and is the main component in some of the oldest man-made structures on earth.

Frank Harris said: “It’s been great using Crossrail clay, seeing exactly where it’s from and thinking about its history. It’s exciting to think about what the world may have been like when this clay was formed.”

The clay was donated to Frank Harris by Crossrail’s western tunnels contractor BFK (Bam Ferrovial Kier).

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Notes to editors

For more information on the Artist in Residence programme visit or email [email protected].

Crossrail last month launched The Culture Line, announcing the first piece of artwork to be installed into one of the eight new Crossrail stations. A Cloud Index, by world renowned artist Spencer Finch, will be the length of a football field and installed into the canopy of the new Crossrail Paddington stations. Sponsors are being invited to fund each artwork that will be built into the fabric of the new station, providing an opportunity for art enthusiasts to be associated with the iconic London stations for generations to come.

The Culture Line will engage eight world renowned London art galleries, together creating a permanent line-wide exhibition across the eight central Crossrail stations. The result will be a series of eight unique destinations, with an art commission of international importance embedded into the design and architecture of each station.

The Culture Line will be funded through private sponsorship. No public funds are available for these art installations within Crossrail’s £14.8 billion budget.

As part of the Crossrail Community Investment Programme, Crossrail western tunnels contractors BFK (Bam, Ferrovial, Kier joint venture) provide access to the London clay for artwork.

Frank Harris creation, along with others, will be exhibited on the Slade Shows 2013 open to the public until Thursday 23 May, 10am–5pm. For more information please visit:

About Crossrail

The total funding envelope available to deliver Crossrail is £14.8bn. The Crossrail route will pass through 37 stations and run 118 km (73 miles) from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west, through new twin-bore 21 km (13 miles) tunnels to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.

When Crossrail opens it will increase London's rail-based transport network capacity by 10%, supporting regeneration and cutting journey times across the city. Crossrail services are due to commence through central London in 2018.

Crossrail is being delivered by Crossrail Limited (CRL). CRL is a wholly owned subsidiary of Transport for London. Crossrail is jointly sponsored by the Department for Transport and Transport for London.