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Hoarding for King’s College, Cambridge

Project Type:

King’s College

King’s College, part of the University of Cambridge, is made up of several remarkable buildings, the oldest of which is its iconic Chapel, built in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

In September 2022 the College began significant restoration work to the Chapel’s roof, replacing the lead roofing and installing solar panels (invisible from the ground). The work required the installation of a hoarding – forty metres long, three metres high – to house machinery and equipment, along a section of King’s Parade, a hugely popular partially pedestrianised street in the centre of the city.

The College wanted to commission ‘an engaging and visually stimulating design for the hoarding’, to be in place for the duration of the work, between a year and eighteen months. They wanted the hoarding to showcase the various initiatives and activities they’d been carrying out to reduce the College’s environmental impact. The brief was for something attractive, informative and visually engaging, making bold use of colour and imagery.

I went hunting for an illustrator to work on the project, and found the perfect person in Owen Davey – a hugely talented illustrator who has worked on a lot of illustrated books, including the glorious Curiositree: Natural World. Because you can get really close to the hoarding, it was important that it looked just as good close up as it did from across the street – which suited Owen’s vector based artwork perfectly, since it can scale to any size and remain sharp.

I worked with Jonty Carr at King’s to put together a specific illustration brief, and created a full layout for the hoarding.

It needed to be read from either end, with clear divisions between each of nine sections. It was also really important to avoid running text across divisions between each 1.5 metre printed panel, and we needed to provide areas of solid colour at a couple of places along the length of the hoarding, to leave room during installation for small changes in ground height. We also needed to see how a low stone wall in front of the hoarding would affect things depending on where you viewed it from.


I finalised the layout of all the text, and then passed the layout over to Owen to begin illustrating. He put together initial sketches based on our brief, and then went on to create a magnificent full colour illustration which runs the length of the hoarding. Here are just a few sections from it.


The hoarding was beautifully produced and installed by the team at Lavastar.


Their attention to detail even ran to colour matching screws to the artwork.


Immediately after installation, passersby began to interact with the hoarding:


The panels of the hoarding are made from at least 80% recycled material, and the hoarding will be recycled once it’s taken down.


“We thoroughly enjoyed working with Alistair – from initial conception to final installation, he demonstrated a calm enthusiasm coupled with excellent instincts and a real eye for detail; it was a delight to work with him throughout the entire process.”
Jonty Carr, Head of Communications at King’s College, Cambridge


In June 2024, the project was longlisted for the World Illustration Awards. The global awards celebrate the very best illustration work each year – specifically work which is technically excellent, communicates its idea or message brilliantly, and which explores illustration as an artform.