London's St James's quarter has a long history of tailoring and shoe-making, and now two new thought-provoking installations there draw on this heritage. Both commissions come courtesy of the Crown Estate - the property portfolio owned by the Crown - and are an attempt to bring further design delight to a pair of recently refurbished office buildings.
Acoustitch is a bold three-dimensional wall feature in the foyer of 11 Waterloo Place, home to the National Bank of Egypt. Acoustitch's creators, architecture firm RCKa, had a depth of just 150mm to play with as the piece was to sit behind the reception desk. Although it had to be shallow, it also needed to improve the foyer's acoustics. RCKa's solution was a 3-D re-think of traditional woven fabric swatches, made of foam found in sound recording studios. The acoustic foam was cut into triangular blocks and dyed different colours including gold, pin, navy blue and grey.
Architect Dieter Kleiner explains that pinpointing the positioning of the coloured blocks was 'trial and error'. Those efforts have paid off, as viewers are treated to a variety of visual effects as they pass to and fro in front of Acoustitch.
Round the corner at 11 Charles Street is Lola Lely's Cosmology of St James's, a mobile inspired by local bootmaker John Lobb. 'I was given over their archives and re-imagined how the pieces could be worked in a different material,' says Lely. So Lobb customers Oscar Wilde and Bosie are here represented as a pair of shiny love-birds, formed from curling the template of a brogue shoe.
Meanwhile local resident Isaac Newton is represented as a rotating orbit. 'The whole piece is about the cosmos and is suspended in gravity,' says Lely. All nine satellites rotate slowly as the automatic door opens and lets outside air in. If the finer details are lost on visitors, they should soon be able to refer to a written explanation that Lely is preparing for the foyer.