Where to build the walls that protect us

November 2013 – September 2014. Conceived and guided by Stephen Hodge

The Show & Context

Where to build the walls that protect us is an opportunity for us all to imagine and model a future city. Our city of Exeter. It’s going to be an exercise in serious play.

Where to build the walls that protect us is an opportunity for us all to imagine a future city. Our city of Exeter… An architect or planner might call this sort of process a ‘charrette’ – a term that’s used to describe an intensive and collaborative enquiry that seeks to solve a complex design issue. Perhaps that sounds rather dry and dusty, but you should be assured that this is going to be an exercise in serious play. We’ll try not to get too distracted by Utopian visions. Or to worry too much about logistics. But, with one eye on the persistent fiscal crisis and the challenges of climate change, let’s look again at the fundamental fabric of our city and envisage it afresh.

The Excursions

But, before we turn to building anything, we invited you to take a closer look at today’s Exeter. In Autumn 2013 participants were invited to 4 excursions which took place on 28th September, 12th October, 26th October and 9th November. Each excursion was exploratory by nature and lasted anywhere from 4-6 hours.

They weaved through the city, playfully exploring the key themes of terrain and climate, buildings and the life between them, industry and commerce, and mobility and communications. Participants had the opportunity to encounter experts (climatologists, planners, financiers and residents), to gather material, and to contribute their own ideas to the on-going planning enquiry.


The final phase of the project involved the construction of 5 prototype Exeters in September 2014. Each day, we popped up unexpectedly in a central Exeter location. Each day, one physical model of a possible future Exeter evolved through seriously playful interactions between invited experts and Exeter’s citizens. Each day, we document what we’d done, then wiped the slate clean.

9 September – The Quay

10 September – Cathedral Green

11 September – Guildhall Shopping Centre

12 September – Outside Exeter Central Station

13 September – Outside Exeter Central Library

On this final day, we interrogated all of the themes and questions that have arisen previously. That evening we met at Exeter Brewery tap-room bar to hear invited experts and citizens present their playful visions of possible future Exeters.

To find out more about any part of the project visit wheretobuildthewallstheprotectus.com 

Lead Artist

Stephen Hodge has lived and worked in Exeter for 28 years. He has made work for a range of contexts: from Exeter’s bus fleet, to the National Review of Live Art, to Finland’s ANTI Festival and the virtual environment of Second Life. With fellow members of Wrights & Sites (formed in Exeter in 1997), he has co-created site-specific performances, walking events, Mis-Guided Tours and Mis-Guide books, public art and architectonic interventions for both local and international situations. He is Head of Drama at the University of Exeter and was Performance Curator at Exeter Phoenix for 11 years. He is working closely with many partners, including documentary photographer Rob Darch (robertdarch.com), producer Emily Williams (kaleider.com), artists Matt Fletcher and Stuart Crewes, and a number of experts from Met Office, Transition Exeter, architecture and the community.

Where to build the walls that protect us is a Kaleider Commission

The work was conceived and realised by Stephen Hodge, commissioned by Kaleider, and supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and Exeter City Council.


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