Does the art in Bloomberg’s HQ call post-Brexit London into question?

London – The newly constructed Bloomberg headquarters by Foster + Partners is making the news for its concept which integrates sustainability and aesthetics in its impressive design. The sandstone office complex incorporates public plazas and commercial spaces into an area as wide as a city block, and has earned the highest BREEAM rating of any major office development.

Giants in their relative fields, Michael Bloomberg and Norman Foster held special consideration for the larger urban context from the beginning: aspiring to ‘be a good neighbour in the city of London in every sense of the word,’ as Foster explains. Amidst an uncertain political climate, they took the concept of being neighbourly beyond immediate borders, commissioning various international artists and setting a new energy standard for buildings of its size.

Just past the initial reception foyer, a dynamic juncture of three timber-clad shells forms a sort of aperture to the art of Olafur Eliasson, which uses reflective aluminium pieces to mirror the activity below. Ominously titled No Future is Possible Without a Past, the prominently located installation resembles ripples in the surface of a pond and brings an eerily calm aesthetic to the busy headquarters.

Water is employed in a more than metaphorical sense by Cristina Iglesias in Forgotten Waters, an outdoor installation which honours the ecological history of the site with a gentle stream flowing through a plaza. Referencing the annexed natural landscape, Forgotten Waters is a call for ecological consciousness in central London, a natural element returned to the environment by the same force that destroyed it: human intervention. The form of contemporary art gives the stream a purpose and value, which is the only way nature is allowed to be embedded in our human environments.

Back inside the building, Frozen Sky by Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell is a graphic portrayal of modernity’s constant movement. IATA airport codes are used as a metonym for space, within the form of a clock that represents time. Neon tubes – embedded in every urbanite’s memory of city streets at night – form the three-letter codes which illuminate in the familiar sequence of a ticking clock.

Evident in its low height that leaves unobstructed views of the nearby cathedral, Bloomberg’s new headquarters may be considered relatively humble in comparison with the intervention one might expect from the collaboration of a billionaire and a starchitect. The allocation of space for cultural purposes, prominent display of international artwork, and far-reaching concern for the environmental makes for more than a workplace for a company with 19,000 employees globally – it serves as understated architectural commentary on the interdependence of modern society, particularly poignant in a post-Brexit London.


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