Posted Monday, 08 March, 2010 by Graeme Hawes
Here is a brief history of the commission that I have been involved with for the last four months. I have worked with an architect and a sculptor to produce a decorative glass installation which will shortly be installed at the property in central London.
The United Women’s Homes Association was started after the First World War to ‘provide homes at affordable rents for low paid women workers’. By 1925 the association had 1,270 members and during 1933 it rose to 2,000. The UWHA properties developed and extended from central London to homes in Leigh on Sea, Brighton, Hove, and Eastbourne etc. Some of the properties were purpose built and some named after significant women such as Edith Cavell, the Bronte sisters, Octavia Hill and Christina Rossetti.
The UWHA published their own journal called Feminine Life which kept members and residents up to date with property developments and accommodation vacancies.
During the 1990s UWHA wanted to join forces with a larger housing group in order to redevelop and upgrade their homes. To this end they chose the Circle 33 Housing Group.
As part of this upgrading Murray House has been redesigned by Formation Architects and rebuilt by Inscape Partnerships.
In concept the artwork references a large necklace of beads that are embedded ‘flush’ into the fabric of the building. The necklace will circumnavigate and appear to ‘float’ around the entrance and street area creating a bejewelled threshold between the outside and inside of the UWHA accommodation. The symbolism of the necklace as an entity made up of single beads making a whole and the circular never ending nature of its structure is implicit in the concept for the commission.
Fabrication and embedding of Necklace into Murray House
The individual beads are made of hemispherical shades of concentric layers of opalescent solid glass, each one unique and handmade. Embedding the volume of the hemispheres into the fabric of the building allows a cross-section, ‘agate’ or ‘geological’ perspective into the gem like solid glass. This structural layering and sequencing of beads reinforces the references to a historical/commemorative/metaphorical timeline.
There will be about 160 hemispherical beads in total and the diameter of each bead hemisphere would be approximately 100mm.
The beads will be embedded into (Portland stone coloured alseco) pre-cast cladding tiles designed by Formation Architects to surface the exterior of the lower building and into the entrance area into cast terrazzo sections.
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