Finial Response is a permanent public artwork in the bustling heart of Soho in London. It is an interactive and light-based piece that blurs the boundaries between architecture installation and art.
The artwork covers 20 meters at street level and consists of 109 individually shaped black steel profiles sandwiching illuminated acrylic which responds to the movements of passers-by. Each profile shape echoes ornamental finials found around Westminster, connecting Soho’s decorated past with its new incarnation as a media hub.
Complementary colours offset patterns created by movement recorded by invisible sensing technology, producing a constantly changing artwork that will engage and delight for many years to come.
Westminster’s streets are typified by intricate and decorative metalwork details that embellish buildings and street furniture. They incorporate thousands of permutations of classical motifs rendered in traditional ironwork and the sheer diversity in the area suggests an underlying historical narrative of forms borne from fashion, craft and heritage. The design of finials varies vastly in the area, as do the size, shape and scale of the railings. Navigating through the streets of Westminster the shapes and shadows blend into a striking, morphing pattern of adornation in London.
The artwork interprets the idiosyncratic nature of the patterns that railings in London and focuses on the silhouette forms that finials make, and how emblems and motifs can be depicted in their simplest form while remaining instantly recognisable. This cultural ubiquity allows the freedom to depict shapes in subtle and unconventional ways while retaining their familiarity, by inverting and morphing between finials. To emphasise the effect, railings were created as vertical fins perpendicular to the pavement to maximise the outline.
The lighting element follows the profile outlines created by the side-view approach to the artwork, and as lighting levels drop in the evening, the focus of the piece shifts from the historical to the modern, and defined colour gradients generate attenuated glows that accent the artwork and convey the shapes using light and contrast.
Inspiration is drawn from Soho’s more recent evolution into a media district of London, where well-established companies supporting the international film, advertising and web industries coexist with younger and more experimental entrepreneurs.
The lighting element acts as a subtly recursive digital painting modified by the interaction of passers-by. Walking by the artwork casts white pools of light that trail alongside, making for a delicately playful intervention in a vibrant Soho street.
Concept & Design:
Commissioned by Wilkinson Eyre Architects
Blenheim House Construction, F & C Reit Asset Management
Hatton Metalcraft Ltd.
Assembly & Fabrication:
Hatton Metal Craft Ltd.
Software Programming and Electrical Engineering:
White Wing Logic Ltd.
Structural Engineering: RCA Structures