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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

23 Savile Row, London, United Kingdom

Eric Parry and Joel Shapiro on integrating permanent sculpture with architecture in London
American sculptor Joel Shapiro unveiled his first permanent public sculpture in the United Kingdom today; the piece is located in London's fashionable retail district Mayfair.

The bronze sculpture titled 'here' is suspended above the main entrance, contrasting with reflective glass surfaces, of new office-and-retail complex 23 Savile Row. The well-articulated design of what seems like a simple geometric piece 'five rectangular shapes strung up in mid-air' makes it such that the building looks altered from every possible angle: when the passer-by approaches it from different streets, and when they view it from within the building. Photographers would have a fun time here with the amount of deep shadows created by the piece contained within an intimate niche of the building and hanging over a canopy.

For Shapiro, the greatest challenge was coming up with an artwork that was "active, vibrant enough" to involve the entire building. This is the first suspended installation for the New York-based artist who has been working with geometric pieces for four decades. He enjoyed the fact that the piece is "small and modest" and that by not resting on the same plane as the perceiver, engages the space and viewer more.

The 100,000 sq ft building sits on the site of the now-demolished Fortress House, the former headquarters of English Heritage and the sculpture was a quintessential factor in the project's approval process. According to the complex's architect Eric Parry, "the building is a quiet backdrop to the sculpture" as the building is strong but well-behaved, and given to "laconic repetition". Parry even described the complex as "a continuum to Joel's solo".

Zijia Wong
architecture NOW

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