Radical change always brings new challenges and new developments. In January of this year the Art Department was asked to propose ideas for an eye-catching artwork that would be a key feature in the new building. Having been extensively consulted in relation to the custom design and specifications of the art department within the new college building, I was very familiar with the new space and its’ potential to facilitate Art within the building. The most dramatic and eye-catching feature of our new space is the Atrium, a beautifully designed piece of architectural space that is central hub of activity, as well as being central to the character of the building.
For me the most striking quality of the Atrium is the way that it creates a sense of intimacy despite its scale. The minimalism of the off-white walls, off-set by the sensitivity of the contrasting natural wood edging, is all made visually and physically pleasing to the eye by the use of curving walls. The multi-sensory experience in the space is completed by the ability to look up and through to the outside world through the two circular windows, which create a dramatic sensation of an image within an image.
Many buildings, especially in a major city like London, are constantly reducing living and working space to the bare minimum. The Atrium space goes against this, to create an extremely physically and spatially pleasing experience on entering the building. This was the main reason why I immediately targeted the Atrium as a key site for an artwork. An open spatial area with such a high ceiling lends itself beautifully to the facilitation of Three-Dimensional hanging artworks, and when the initial request for an artwork was made, the idea for wood and image letters spelling DLD LONDON, hanging from a ceiling wire, just came into my head. When I thought of this idea I also thought that one side of the letters should consist of a collage of student artworks, black edged. This would allow the piece to be a celebration of the best of the creativity of both art staff and students. The aim of the piece was to create a dramatic addition to the Atrium that expresses something of the unique identity of DLD College, in an eye-catching and contemporary way.
When I did an initial rough sketch, I realised that the nine letters could also facilitate the letters EDUCATION on the reverse side. I also wanted the hanging letters to be colourful and graphic, and attached by contrasting stainless steel industrial fittings, to provide a striking contemporary visual effect. Once this was decided it was a case of designing the specific physical size and material specifications of the letters. The majority of the work was done in-house, reflecting the professional skills and ingenuity of the Art Staff. The MDF letters and Ply wood edging was laser cut at FabLab, a central London community based design Lab we have membership of, by colleagues Lauren & Louise, to my specifications. The complex transferring of the designs to computer files, in order to programme the laser to cut the letters and edging professionally and precisely, could not have been done without the specific skills and expertise of Lauren Cook, a fellow art teacher, and our Graphic Communication Co-ordinator, and Louise Golding –Hann, the E-Learning Co-ordinator.
The student art images were created by photographing a selection of the best of some DLD student artwork, collaging images together on nine graphic files, then having the images printed photographically to A3 size, before cutting and gluing them onto the wooden letters. The reverse side, of colourful mis-registered letters, was created using computer graphics software, by Lauren, to my design specifications. The computer designed lettering was then printed as A3 photographic prints, then cut to shape and stuck onto the second side of the MDF letters. The painting and attaching of the ply wood edging was also done in-house by Lauren and me. The stainless steel D Shackles and Eye to Eye Swivels were acquired from an industrial supplier. A Retractable Hoist was requested and installed in the ceiling of the Atrium, and the whole artwork had to be certificated by a Structural Engineer in order to guarantee that it was safe to install.
As the senior Art Teacher within the Art Department, with over fourteen years’ experience of working at DLD (at Pembridge Square, then Marylebone Lane, and now Westminster) it has been extremely rewarding to work for a College that values and respects Art as a valid subject, and recognises its’ ability to humanise and enhance the College environment. This is as it should be in a major city that is one of the global centres for art and culture.
In my view this project displays the best of the professional and creative expertise of the Art staff and the creative ability and potential of Art students of DLD. This project has involved around 150 hours of work to produce the final installed artwork. I am very grateful for the contribution of Lauren and Louise, and hope that this will be the first in a whole series of projects which showcase the very best of ART at DLD as we settle in to our new home.
Jonathan Parkhouse – Subject Leader for Art/ Art Projects co-ordinator DLD College London November 2015 Click here to see more images of the hanging sculpture.