My Happiest Project: Yinka Ilori

Throughout October, we’re looking at the subject of happiness, and asking creatives to tell us about the projects they’ve most enjoyed working on. Here, artist and designer Yinka Ilori reflects on transforming an underpass in Battersea into Happy Street

Happy Street was a project I was commissioned to do by London Festival of Architecture. The area’s called Thessaly Road in Battersea. The project was mainly looking at how colour can promote good health and also inspire the community who live in the area. I read an article online by a professor, and he described key words that promote good health. One was happiness; one was excitement – there were 16 altogether.

I looked at the article and I was quite fascinated by how these words promote good health, so I thought: ‘How can I link those keywords and key types of happiness to the underpass?’ So I looked at different types of colours and patterns, and worked out how I can link that to the underpass, and how I can promote good health in a public space and I can make it a project that’s inclusive for myself and also for the community.

When we first did the project, I think I was a bit worried. You go into public spaces and you see lots of sculptures that have no link to the community, or it’s a new development that cost millions and millions of pounds, and because it’s worth millions of pounds, they’ve got to put an expensive sculpture in there. But for the people who live in the area, there’s no connection to the architecture. So for me it was essential and highly important that the work that I’m creating has a legacy, and will have an impact on people who live in that community from generation to generation.