London's Silver Forest Redefines the Concrete Jungle

London's Silver Forest Redefines the Concrete Jungle

A new type of greenery has arrived in central London. Placed along the western façade of Westminster City Hall (known as Kingsgate Walk), a sprawling concrete frieze in relief depicts shimmering nocturnal birch trees photographed in forests from Beijing to London. Created using emerging technology, the relief was rendered through the concrete casting of a photograph by artist Rut Blees Luxemburg, a photographic artist and a reader in Urban Aesthetics at London's Royal College of Art. The textured surface of the frieze changes according to ambient light, creating a perplexing effect in the image from day to night.

Realized through a unique collaboration between artist Blees Luxemburg, London-based Lynch Architects and developer Land Securities as a part of Kingsgate, Silver Forest completes the major urban regeneration project for London Victoria in its new home in a public square adjacent to Westminster City Hall.

Find out more about the interdisciplinary partnership formed for Silver Forest after the break.

ArchDaily spoke with Patrick Lynch, Architect of Kingsgate, to find out more about the collaboration between artist, developer and architect for Silver Forest. "The idea was to echo and mirror the colonnades of Kingsgate – creating a total work of art and architecture," Lynch says. "Rut's response to our concept—essentially a baroque idea of implied thickness within something very thin—was to reference the Renaissance painting by Ucello, The Hunt in the Forest, we then evolved together references to what Alberti called natura naturans or 'second nature'."

Paolo Ucello's 1470 painting The Hunt in the Forest, as Lynch mentions, served as the catalyst for Blees Luxemburg's piece. Through the introduction of a natural narrative to London's static urban architecture, the artist sought to animate the architects' newly designed public space. Lynch and Blees Luxemburg then began a discussion on additional inspirations for the project, including the Architects' recommendation of glass-reinforced concrete to best represent the selected artwork.

'The Hunt in the Forest' by Paolo Uccello (1470)
'The Hunt in the Forest' by Paolo Uccello (1470)

Through a deft act of planning, the new public square at Kingsgate, the residential component of the redevelopment of London Victoria constructed by Lend Lease, will "connect parts of the medieval city behind city hall to Spencer Street going east towards Christ Church Gardens—a garden formed from the ruin of WW II bombed church—and thence Westminster Abbey," says Lynch. Blees Luxemburg's artwork serves as the focal point for the public space – an appropriately collaborative selection for London's newest gathering place.

Spanning thirty metres wide by seven metres tall along Westminster City Hall's western façade, Silver Forest creates an unlikely opportunity to commune with nature in the heart of London. Described as "a powerful allegory for spiritual contemplation, reflection and organic renewal," the frieze provides a moment of solace for passersby. Designed to complement the existing design for Kingsgate, Silver Forest serves "to continue the colonnade of city Hall around the corner, creating plastic spatial fluidity and giving depth," says Lynch.

Birdstane / Timorous Beasties. Image Courtesy of Lynch Architects
Birdstane / Timorous Beasties. Image Courtesy of Lynch Architects

Silver Forest was created through a specialized photographic casting process using high-definition glass-reinforced concrete, undertaken by Graphic Relief, allowing the artwork to change in concert with natural light. The resulting effect produces a curious optical illusion based on the viewer's perspective, while simultaneously activating the space through a subtle tonal shift. As daylight changes, viewers are treated to a dance of hues as the image shifts from grey to silver.

Silver Forest is now on display at Kingsgate in London's Victoria district. Find out more, here.

Correction: the photographs depicted here also show an artwork by Timorous Beasties entitled Birdstane. This artwork can be identified in the captions.

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Cite: Finn MacLeod. "London's Silver Forest Redefines the Concrete Jungle" 05 Feb 2016. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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