In May 2002, The British Council commissioned Squire and Partners to develop proposals for a new British Council education and cultural centre on a site adjacent to the British High Commission in central Nairobi. In the later stages of the design process the British Council proposed asking David Tremlett to adorn the façade and inner spaces with one of his signature artworks.
David Tremlett is a British sculptor, installation artist and photographer, who was is also a Turner Prize nominee. Best known for his pastel renderings, David composes large scale designs comprising of bold colour-filled geometric shapes, using his hands and arms to apply pastels over large areas.
The British Council
Andrea Rose, Director of Art Architecture and Design in 2002, commented: 'The proposal [to apply artwork to the building] might have been interpreted by the architects as a threat to the pared-down beauty of their conception. In fact, Squire and Partners embraced the suggestion with imagination and generosity, and have worked with the artist to create a building that is eloquent and distinctive.
The hand-rubbed pigment of Tremlett's paintings contrast with the blocks of Nairobi Blue stone used to face the exterior, leaving an indelible sense both of the people who have made this building, and of the earth and stone out of which it has been constructed.'
The British Council produced a publication to coincide with the opening of the new headquarters in East Africa, celebrating the partnership between the architects and the artist, and between Kenya and the UK.
Speaking of the commission, David Tremlett commented: 'The involvement in the new British Council centre in Nairobi allowed me, for the first time, to go from the interior to the exterior with drawings. The design of the building is a beautifully simple set of interlocking, parallel, sloping planes which needed almost nothing from me.
My job was to add, underline and emphasise the existing construction and not to distract. Using my favoured material, pastel, the aim of my project was to underline different architectural elements then becoming an integral part of the overall construction.'