At Media Powerhouse we are big fans of Swiss artist Felice Varini, pictured below. Some may be less familiar with his work as he paints in an abstract manner on architectural and urban spaces, such as buildings, walls and streets and, until this month, none of his work has been in the UK.
Our Special Projects team were fortunate enough to work closely with him to create his latest, and first UK landmark installation, in London, “Across the Buildings”.
The 67 acre King’s Cross development, backed by leading property development company, Argent LLP, is transforming the living and working space for 45,000 people by creating 50 new buildings, 2,000 new homes, 20 new streets and 10 public squares. The RELAY arts programme, funded by the King’s Cross Central LLP and supported by Eurostar, commissioned Varini to install this colossal artwork across several derelict buildings as a way of encouraging people to discover the continually transforming public spaces at King’s Cross.
The installation involves a number of enormous geometric shapes overlaid onto the facades of these distinctive buildings. It covers 2.5 square kilometres, spanning 542 metres across nine buildings and structures on the 67 acre site. From street level, the shapes appear to be randomly placed on the front of buildings such as The Granary Building, the Fish and Coal Offices and the Midlands Goods Shed. However from a single, specific point, they unify and form one continuous pattern.
Turning Varini’s vision into reality required a substantial on-site team working up to heights of 23 metres on Victorian buildings each with specific access issues and differing surfaces, many of which were listed. Due to its scale, effective project planning was key to a successful delivery. To achieve this we collaborated with multiple agencies, including English Heritage, Camden local authority, and various construction partners on three building sites, as well as the artist himself.
One of the first requirements was to build the viewing platform that would allow the public to look at the installation from the correct perspective. It was also vital to enable the artist a line of sight to confirm location, geometry and the right perspective as we worked.
The installation required the application of silver aluminium foil, sometimes at precarious angles, to the building and surfaces; creating a stunning visual effect, changing as daylight conditions adjust and while illuminated.
Project Director, Tim Roffey, explained, “to get the job done we had to balance access solutions, scheduling restrictions, the artist’s expectations and, of course, the necessity for a safe system of work”.
The design frames the Granary Square area, using the heritage buildings at the heart of King’s Cross to host a remarkable piece of contemporary art. It was an amazing experience to be instrumental in delivering such an iconic piece of urban artwork. You can watch this part of the project unfold in an excellent time-lapse video.
The sad thing is that Varini’s first UK work will only remain in place until the autumn. We suggest that you do not wait too long before making a visit.
All of these stunning photographs are courtesy of Argent LLP and, with the exception of the aerial view of King’s Cross Development, were taken by John Sturrock