‘Wind Sculpture’, Yinka Shonibare CBE (RA)

‘…Yinka Shonibare’s Wind Sculpture standing in Howick Place in Victoria, a magical work that follows the theme of his commission for the plinth in Trafalgar Square – Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle. The curving form seems like a torn fragment of a sail.’
Janet Street-Porter, THE INDEPENDENT

HS Projects commissioned a striking sculpture by internationally renowned artist Yinka Shonibare, CBE (RA). ‘Wind Sculpture’, 2014, Shonibare’s first permanent public art commission, takes the form of a colourful ship’s sail, measuring 6.1 metres in height by 3.4 metres in width, exploring the notion of harnessing movement. The captivating piece has special resonance at Howick Place, named after Viscount Howick, later 2nd Earl Grey, one of the main architects of the Reform Act 1832, Catholic emancipation and the abolition of slavery in the British Empire and a variety of tea. ‘Wind Sculpture’ continues Shonibare’s focus on themes of colonialism, trade, and race and employs the artist’s signature use of batik Dutch wax fabric designs – materials which have become synonymous with African identity.

We devised the overall Public Art Strategy which entailed researching the history of the area, identifying sites for public art, developing the artists brief, selection process, timetable and additional art programme. Yinka Shonibare CBE was awarded the commission for his insightful response to the site and the history of the area.

The idea for ‘Wind Sculpture’ was conceived after producing a series of works related to historical ships, in particular his Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square commission, ‘Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’. When developing those pieces, Shonibare had to focus on how to form the sails so that they appeared to be caught mid voyage, and in doing so the sails began to describe the very conditions of that voyage itself. The sails came to represent the movement and passion within the piece, the emotions the artist wanted to translate to the viewer.

Moving away from the form of a ship itself, ‘Wind Sculpture’ formally explores the notion of harnessing movement through the idea of capturing the volume of wind, and freezing it in a moment of time. Using a series of materials normally applied to large structures that exude a sense of solidity and permanence, the tension of this abstract work is heightened by the contrast between the media used, and the movement recreated through the delicate realisation of the work. Returning to Shonibare’s use of Dutch wax fabrics, the work manifests as a giant three-dimensional blown up piece of fabric that appears to be caught blowing in the wind. The work is rendered in full colour, exactly duplicating a piece of the African fabric synonymous with his work, only in giant form.

The use of batik Dutch wax fabrics is an important element within Shonibare’s overall body of work, and has continued in his practice as a kind of visual language through which he translates his ideas. Commonly referred to as “African” fabrics, these textiles have a somewhat hybrid history that defies such defined cultural categorisation, one which is often hidden and which refuses stereotypes – a concept he explores in his practice.

Using metal armatures and pigmentation techniques, ‘Wind Sculpture’ is highly durable, resisting disintegration from inclimate weather and outdoor conditions. The work was realised using moulds sculpted to perfectly capture the sense of movement in the fabrics, and the surface was treated and pigmented to perfectly represent the batik patterns of traditional and beautifully colourful Dutch wax fabrics.

HS Projects commissioned ‘Wind Sculpture’ on behalf of Doughty Hanson and Terrace Hill.
‘Wind Sculpture’ is located opposite 5 Howick Place, Victoria, London.


‘Tokens’, John Aldus

HS Projects commissioned ‘Tokens’, 2006, a permanent public art commission on Marchmont Street, Bloomsbury by artist John Aldus. ‘Tokens’ evokes poignant memories of London’s great Foundling Hospital as well as the continuing worldwide themes of childhood abandonment, trafficking and exploitation.

We developed the project and artist brief, selection process including curating a public exhibition of the shortlsted artists’ concept proposals, established a stakeholder representative art committee and managed the commission from beginning to end.

Marchmont Street is built on land that was formerly part of the Foundling Estate, where stood the Foundling Hospital. This institution, Britain’s first home for abandoned children, was founded in 1739 by Captain Thomas Coram (1668-1751), a retired sea captain who, returning from North America was appalled to find so many poor and socially excluded children in eighteenth century London ‘left to die on dung hills’. His concern and determination led him to gather an influential set of governors, including William Hogarth and George Frideric Handel, and to obtain the royal patronage of King George II.

John Aldus took his inspiration from the poignant collection of tokens held by the Foundling Museum nearby. The tokens, left by mothers to identify their babies in case they came back to reclaim them once admitted into the Foundling Hospital, have since become poignant symbols of their hopes and dreams. Admission to the hospital was determined by a lottery-style draw of coloured balls from a sack. Drawing a white ball meant acceptance and a future for mother and baby, whereas drawing a black ball meant rejection; hence the expression ‘Black Balled’. The tokens included coins, scraps of ribbon and buttons.

Aldus worked closely with the Foundling Museum in translating his inspiration derived from these objects to create ‘Tokens’. Embedded into the very fabric of Marchmont Street, a trail of cast metal shapes, including the three different coloured balls, lie seemingly scattered on the pavement of Marchmont Street inviting the passersby to deeply engage with the tragedy of the time which still has resonances today. John Aldus’ ‘Tokens’ also marked the completion of ‘Marchmont Parade’, a new public space, which incorporates landscaping and public art.
‘Walking along a street, crossing a square is not a totally innocent act. Adventure, an encounter, the unexpected, a desire, an idea…… affect the senses of the walker, giving him as many approaches to the site that his mind is open to, that his curiosity allows’ – John Aldus.

‘The purpose of this work is to add to this process a dimension of time, inviting the viewer to ‘inscribe’ himself in the area’s history. Placing our steps in those of our predecessors, we find our place in this continuum becoming altogether witness of the past, actor of the present and a constitutive element of the ‘pasts to come’, of what our successors will be the observers and, in their turn, the actors. We are sharing a site across the time. In this perspective the viewer becomes the most important part of the art project: its subject’ – John Aldus.

‘Marchmont Parade’ was created by a unique public/private/community partnership, comprising the Marchmont Association, Allied London Properties, Hermes, Brunswick TRA and Camden Council. HS Projects commissioned ‘Tokens’ on behalf of the partnership.
‘Tokens’ is located on Marchmont Street, Bloomsbury, London.



‘Aquaduct’, Susanna Heron

HS Projects developed the public art strategy and project brief for the re-development of The Brunswick Centre on behalf of Allied London. With such an iconic building it was critical to find an artist who could collaborate with the architects Levitt Bernstein Associates and Patrick Hodgkinson to produce a work that relates to the architecture of the building.

Recognising that it was important to address the site as a whole when commissioning the public art, we decided to take an art and architecture approach to re-designing the space to draw people in and create the right environment. Susanna Heron was selected to respond to the site and collaborate on the design with the architects for her ability to work with space and water.  Effective and close collaboration between artist and architects, brought about an effective and practical design for the street. This included, for example, the banding design for the paving to give a for-shortening effect to the ‘street’ to open the space up and draw visitors in.

The collaboration between artist and architects in the design of the public art was supported by Camden Council and local residents. The outcome of their collaboration, a site specific art and architecture approach, contributed greatly to The Brunswick Centre’s successful regeneration both commercially and critically, including the receipt of a number of awards for regeneration and design in 2007.

‘Aquaduct’, 2003-6 encourages population of the central space and creates a ‘sense of place’ between the flights of flats on either side. The central line of the space, punctuated by large scale trees and cafe tables is marked by a series of stainless steel troughs channeling fast flowing water towards a large pool. These invented objects have the characteristics of something utilitarian, industrial, out-of-doors and man-made; they rest under their own weight, their surfaces unrefined. The steel is folded to reduce the need for welds making curves easy to lean over and a continuous structural ‘skin’ which gives it strength.

A rectangular pool is situated at the T-junction between Curzon Bloomsbury and the central space. The container for the pool is low enough to encourage people to sit together along the edges. The container is similarly angled and rests on the ground to trap the water in its frame.  Circular lights, set flush within the pool-base, are illuminated at night appearing to float beneath the surface whilst by day the water draws in the sky. ‘This is a choreographic work, enabling people to sit and walk about, introducing natural elements of flowing water and reflected light by day and at night’ – Susanna Heron.

Regeneration and Renewal Awards 2007: best Heritage-led Project.

HS Projects commissioned ‘Aquaduct’, 2003-6 on behalf of Allied London. ‘Aquaduct’ is located in The Bruswick Centre, Bloomsbury London.