Set within Marylebone’s Portman Estate is OneThreeSix, or more recently ‘Smart Building’, is Native Land’s newly completed mixed-use development. Whilst the address is notably home to the leading London developer’s debut office building, and now home to globally recognised fintech company Smart Pension, it also hosts ‘Grass Forms’ – a large-scale sculpture which sits on the building’s façade and has been thoughtfully crafted by artist and sculptor Hugo Dalton.
The Native Journal interviewed Native Land’s Development Executive, Felicity Masefield, and the artist behind ‘Grass Forms’, Hugo Dalton, to discuss the collaboration.
Felicity, how did the collaboration with Hugo Dalton arise?
Hugo came highly recommended to us. Native Land were very inspired by his previous work, which includes everything from public realm sculptures, and live drawing performances on some of the world’s most famous stages, to smaller, more intimate private commissions. These previous pieces meant we knew he could take the nuances of OneThreeSix and create a contextual piece of artwork that would stand the test of time.
Hugo has an amazing ability to provoke emotion through his line drawings, where he leans on the concept that stripping something back to its truest form can still make a significant impact. He’s demonstrated this fantastically at OneThreeSix with ‘Grass Forms’; whilst it may appear at first glance a subtle piece of artwork, its impact on the building’s façade is undeniable, and the inspiration he took from nearby Hyde Park ties the art in with its surroundings.
Hugo, tell us about the vision you and Native Land had for this project and how you approached it?
The main brief was that there should be a connection between the artwork, the building, and the context. I wanted to create something that really spoke to the building and some of its key architectural features, rather than standing out against it.
My usual process is to spend time sketching in the local area and as I sat doing just this in Hyde Park among the long grasses, I was inspired by how it conceals and obscures viewpoints. ‘Grass Forms’ sits between the public and private realm with its position between offices, residential and retail, and I liked the idea that the grass created a screen between these public and private worlds. The sculpture itself brings this influence from nature by using limestone; the stone’s texture offers a softer way of approaching this boundary, and it’s also one of the few materials that was strong enough to be used on such a large-scale sculpture.
Native Land developments always embrace artistic endeavour. Why is this important to you as a developer?
For Native Land, successful development is more than just adding a great building to a site, it’s about adding to the urban landscape. We are a design-led developer and prioritise looking at the smaller details right from a project’s beginning – and this of course includes the artwork, both in the public and private realms. Hugo was commissioned early in the development’s planning, and we were eager that the final piece should integrate into the building, whilst also being inspiring to occupiers and those just walking past.
What value does art bring to a development? Can this value be quantified?
The value is totally immeasurable. One person can walk past and will only notice the art subconsciously, whereas someone else will stop to really appreciate the piece and take something away from it. This is the really great thing about art – it’s an open experience and gives people the opportunity to be outside of their normal experience.
I enjoy creating artwork which is in the public realm, as it makes it much more inclusive and can be experienced and enjoyed by anyone and everyone. There are also not many places in the built environment where you can see something of this scale and so beautifully carved, so I hope it will be a lovely thing for people to experience.
Also, just to add to Hugo’s point – we didn’t have a lot of public realm to work with on this project, so it feels very special that we have this piece so integrated into the side of OneThreeSix, making the most of the space we had.
What is the significance of this development to Native Land? How does the art reflect that?
OneThreeSix is Native Land’s first office development, and it’s proven to be a fantastic chance for us to use all the knowledge and expertise from our prime residential work, and to bring it into the commercial space. Native Land is known for its exceptional and high-quality residential developments, such as Holland Park Villas and Cheyne Terrace, and the confidence in the market that we’ve built up over the years has been reflected in the successful pre-let of OneThreeSix to fintech company Smart, who have taken the entire 44,500 sq ft space.
Regarding ‘Grass Forms’, its position on the façade of a building which acts as a gateway into the West End feels significant. The artwork draws people in, particularly at night when it is lit up, and we know it’ll be seen and appreciated by all these people who are coming back into the city now, bringing life back into London.
Hugo, what’s next in the pipeline for you?
I am currently making six exterior sculptures for an agricultural research laboratory to help educate and inspire people in the work they are doing. As well as this, I’m working again with the Royal Opera House which involves work on the human form – so both very different from one another, and as always, there is lots going on!