Sager Group has appointed Futurecity, the UK’s leading cultural and place making agency, to curate and deliver £1 million worth of new public artwork for the Islington Square development in London. This permanent installation will be located in Esther Anne Place, the 83 metre public boulevard running through the heart of the development. Once installed it will bring a major new cultural attraction to the area, and has the potential to be the longest piece of public art in North London.
To deliver this artwork, Futurecity and Sager have devised a competition with four world-class artists shortlisted: Conrad Shawcross, Janet Echleman, Richard Wilson and United Visual Artists (UVA) who are in the process of developing concept proposals for the scheme. The artists will present their proposals to the Islington Square Arts Advisory Panel, who will then select the winning concept. The panel consists of representatives from Sager, Futurecity, CZWG Architects, Almeida Theatre and the Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art. An example of each artist’s past work is on display in the Islington Square marketing suite (130 Upper Street, London N1). The winning proposal is scheduled to be announced in Spring 2016.
The commission will be located within Esther Anne Place, the pedestrianised centrepiece of the Islington Square development which – with its continental style pavement café culture – is to be surrounded by 263 residential apartments, 108 serviced apartments and 175,852 square feet of retail/commercial facilities including luxury lifestyle brands, restaurants, bars and anchor tenants who include The Lounge by ODEON cinema and Third Space fitness club.
Giris Rabinovitch, CEO of Sager Group, commented:
“Islington has been home to influential cultural figures including Charles Dickens, George Orwell and Charlie Chaplin. In my vision for Islington Square, it was very important to pay homage to the artistic history of the area. Futurecity are experts in place-making and the new artwork will provide a focal point in the development, it is a gift to the community and will act as an attraction for North London.”
Mark Davy, Founder of Futurecity commented:
“We are delighted to be working with Sager Group to deliver a statement piece of public art in Islington Square. Art installations in new developments are vital as they marry up the old community with the new, with a place for conversation and congregation.”
The brief to the artists for this commission was to develop a piece of public art that responds to the architecture, design and wider environment of the development, taking in its location within fashionable Islington. The artwork may be viewed as a symbolic separation between the residential and retail experience of the street, to be enjoyed night and day.
Shortlisted artist, Conrad Shawcross RA, is a sculptor who explores the use of geometry and philosophy, physics and metaphysics in his work. In 2013, Shawcross unveiled Timepiece, where he transformed the iconic Roundhouse in Camden into a robust timekeeping device. Conrad often appropriates redundant theories and methodologies to create ambitious structural and mechanical montages, using a wide variety of mixed media and materials.
Joining Conrad in the competition is Janet Echleman, who is known for creating experiential sculpture at the scale of buildings that transform with wind and light. This year for the Lumiere London festival she created “1.8 London”, a soft, voluminous net sculpture which surged 180 feet through the air between buildings above Oxford Circus. In 2015, Echeleman unveiled “As If It Were Already Here,” a monumental, aerial sculpture suspended over Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway. The vibrant colours pay homage to the six traffic lanes that were previously in the area before it was pedestrianised. The installation includes over 100 miles of twine, a material often used by Janet, weighing approximately one ton.
Alongside Janet in the competition is Richard Wilson RA, who is one of Britain’s most renowned sculptors. Internationally celebrated for his interventions in architectural space, he is inspired by the world of engineering and construction. In 2014, Wilson unveiled Slipstream, a 78m sculpture commissioned by Heathrow Airport. It is Europe’s longest sculpture, and is seen by 20 million passengers each year.
The final contender for the public art competition at Islington Square is United Visual Artists (UVA), a London based art collective that combines a wide range of disciplines including sculpture, light installation and temporary structures. The studio has an open approach to collaboration, uniting diverse skills to continuously evolve new technologies and materials, which in turn suggest new artistic directions. UVA have enjoyed commissions with the Victoria & Albert Museum, Royal Academy of Arts, Barbican, Opera North and National Maritime Museum. Their work has been exhibited at galleries including the South Bank Centre, the Wellcome Collection and the British Library. Their designs for live performance have led to commissions for Tate Modern Turbine Hall, the Paris Opéra Ballet and Madison Square Garden, NYC.
Islington Square by Sager Group in association with Cain Hoy, is the redevelopment of the former North London Mail Centre which is nestled just behind Islington’s Upper Street. Once complete, it will form a £400 million, 4.5 acre Covent Garden style destination for North London. Designed by award winning architect Piers Gough of CZWG Architects, Islington Square combines restored Edwardian buildings and new build elements.
The grand Edwardian sorting office and related period buildings were originally built in 1904-1906, designed by architect Jasper Wager. The complex was where thousands of letters and parcels were organised to be delivered to homes across North London and played a pivotal role in communications during the world wars and since.
Esther Anne Place has the Almeida Theatre at one end and runs parallel to Upper Street. It will be accessed directly from two new pedestrian shopping arcades through the stone archways of the former Post Office and a new arcade adjacent to the former Mitre Public House at 130 Upper Street.
Islington Square is due for completion in Q4 2017, the public art, once installed, will be a focal point for the project.