As London celebrates its 13th Design Week, we take a look at how property and art have become inextricably intertwined. Words: Karen Tait
We all know that once artists move into a neighbourhood, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes gentrified and prices start rising. Canny property developers recognise the value of art when it comes to promoting their projects too, and it’s becoming more and more common for them to partner with an artist to offer more than just homes.
When luxury development The Chilterns in Marylebone was launched, a private gallery in the grand lobby displayed a specially commissioned series of photos of Marylebone by photographer David Bailey; buyers of the properties (priced from £3m) then received one of the original framed photos, worth around £20,000 each.
The St James Group went a step further with the Riverlight development in Battersea. In addition to the six contemporary buildings designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, the project committed over 75% of the site, some four acres, to landscaped outdoor spaces offering shops, restaurants and public art – the nearby Royal College of Art was given a five-year rent-free working and interactive artist space StudioRCA which opened in October, and St-James commissioned leading contemporary artists Simon and Tom Bloor, Kate Davis and Peter Newman to create sculptural works at Riverlight. (Completion is due in 2017, with prices from £800,000, 020 7870 9620.)
History, art and property have been combined at the Goodman’s Fields development in Aldgate (prices from £735,000, 020 3217 1000), where six larger than life bronze horses were recently unveiled in the new public piazza. The sculptures from British artist Hamish Mackie commemorate the site’s past, where a Mr Goodman once leased out the fields for London’s livery horses. Mature trees, pools and fountains follow the curved path of the horses’ dramatic charge through the piazza.
‘Development is about creating communities,’ explains Tony Pidgley CBE, Chairman of the Berkeley Group. ‘We wanted to create one of the finest new squares in London, somewhere you want to meet your friends, relax, read a book and enjoy yourself. Public realm must be at the heart of all regeneration in a world class city.’
Large-scale regeneration projects are sometimes criticised for their lack of soul and community. Introducing art can help to overcome these problems, as recognised by the vast Nine Elms project, where a plan to create a new cultural quarter has just been unveiled.
There’s even a name for this process – ‘placemaking’ acts to entwine culture, art and architecture, engaging local residents, adding character and bringing a sense of participation to a newly established area.
‘Art and culture are great tools to bring people together and create the human interactions that are key to building a community,’ comments David Twohig, director of design and placemaking at Battersea Power Station. ‘Through partnerships we want to bring a diverse art and culture offering across multiple platforms around the site. We’re very excited to be partnering with Battersea Arts Centre on our first cultural platform in Circus West. BAC will play an important role ensuring that we create a space that works for artists, allows for diverse and quality programming, and most importantly a place for new and existing residents to participate in activities and come together as a community. It is the first step in an unfolding and endless story as the Power Station is built out over the coming years.’
Architects are getting in on the act too, with the properties themselves becoming art forms – witness the sculputural form of architect Frank Gehry’s ‘Flower Building’, while across the capital ever more creative new developments have inspired countless nicknames (the Gherkin, Cheesegrater and Walkie-Talkie, to name but a few), leading big-budget buyers to expect innovative architecture.
While galleries are popping up in property developments, the flipside to the coin is the conversion of artists’ studios and warehouses into luxury developments – at the heart of the Nine Elms regeneration, for example, an ex-Christie’s auction warehouse will become The Residence, offering 510 homes courtesy of developer Bellway.