During the design stage of 111 Strand – an office development for City & West End, commissioned in 2000- both client and architect sought a piece of work that would be in harmony with and integral to the architectural design, as well as enriching the visual and cultural experience of both the users of the building and passers-by. The area for the artwork was a five storey section of the façade to the right of the main entrance.
Following an invited competition, organised by art consultants Modus Operandi, the commission was won by husband and wife team Langlands & Bell.
Based in London, Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell have been collaborating since 1978, with artworks ranging from sculpture and installation to film and digital media projects. Their artistic focus has been an exploration of the complex web of relationships linking people with architecture.
Langlands & Bell's artwork focuses on the site context and historical importance, the Strand being one of London's main east-west routes, lying parallel to the Thames (historically one of the most important east-west routes in the city).
The artwork itself is a full height stone relief, in the same Portland stone as the building façade. The relief is presented as a vector of cityscape – an axial section of the locality rising perpendicular to the ground.
It shows a randomly framed section of the surrounding area in the form of a block and street plan as a simplified and relatively low relief. Visitors and passers-by find the city upturned and 're-presented' as a view from above on the building façade.
Vivien Lovell from Modus Operandi commented on the artwork: "Langlands and Bell's artistic concept for the building is firmly connected to its site, placing 111 Strand within a schematic relief map of the area. The elegant rigour of their design results in a contemporary yet classic artwork in this important location."