A new piece of public art, posthumously honouring Wolverhampton artist John Pickering, is to be installed at 103 Colmore Row, Birmingham’s tallest new office building.
The sculpture, entitled ‘Equinox’, is based on Pickering’s work and will be suspended nine metres above the ground in the building’s four-storey colonnade.
Made from solid steel tubes and laser cut metal sheets, the sculpture weighs more than 1.5 tonnes and measures seven metres from tip-to-tip – the height of a two-storey house. Specialist fabricators Structural Stairways, in Brierley Hill, Dudley, have manufactured the piece.
John Pickering was born in Wolverhampton in 1934 and trained in classical sculpture and life drawing at Bilston and Birmingham Schools of Art. After art school he worked as a stone carver on projects including St Philip’s Cathedral in Birmingham.
During the 1970s, he started using geometry and mathematical science, specifically the Inversion Principle, a mathematical principle dating back to late Georgian times, as the inspiration for his work.
In 2006, Pickering met George L. Legendre, an architect with a keen interest in mathematics and computation. Together they brought the Inversion Principle into the twenty-first century. While Pickering drew the mathematical shapes by hand, today computer algorithms enable designers to create intricate designs in real time.
Joint venture partners Sterling Property Ventures and Tristan Capital Partners commissioned George L. Legendre, in collaboration with architects Doone Silver Kerr, designers of 103 Colmore Row, to create the sculpture.
James Howarth, managing director of Sterling Property Ventures, said: “103 Colmore Row is a world-class office building and having a sculpture by the late John Pickering on display for all to see really will be something special.
“It will be a stunning addition to the public realm area of the building, creating a real wow factor for visitors and passers-by.
“Most importantly, it will be a lasting reminder of John and his amazing work, which we’re extremely proud and privileged to have at 103 Colmore Row.”
Ross Kerr, partner at Doone Silver Kerr, said: “We had always envisioned the installation of a significant piece of public art at 103 Colmore Row. In 2016, we approached John Pickering with the idea of producing a sculpture that would complement the building, while also enabling him to realise his lifelong ambition of seeing his work produced on a large scale.
“Sadly, John passed away during the prototyping of Equinox and before he could see his dream become reality. However, working with George L Legendre, we committed to seeing the project through and in doing so create a legacy for John in a city with which he had a close affiliation.”
George L. Legendre, principal of IJP Architects, said: “I am absolutely delighted for John and his family. It was his dream to realise a large piece of public art, and the four-storey colonnade of 103 Colmore Row is simply the best site he could have hoped for. Throughout our collaboration John wanted to scale up his table-sized sculpture to the size of a building. I am particularly grateful to Malcolm Archer’s engineering team at Davies Maguire who worked wonders to make it possible.
“I am also delighted for his brothers, Arthur and Robert, who supported John’s commitment to sculpture during the best part of his life.”
Arthur Pickering, John Pickering’s surviving twin, said: “We are relieved and encouraged that, at long last, John’s art is being shown at the scale which he always envisaged. Despite failing health and crippling disability for most of his adult life, he worked relentless hours, performing thousands of calculations to make each one of his sculptures.
“We genuinely hope that Equinox will lead to a wider appreciation and interest from contemporary art curators in John’s life and work.”
103 Colmore Row comprises 223,631 sq ft of BREEAM ‘Excellent’ Grade A office space. At 26-storeys, 108m (354 ft) high, it is the tallest office development under construction in the UK outside London.
The building boasts a two-storey top floor restaurant and ground floor café, both to be operated by D&D London, with 31,500 sq ft of flexible office space on the first, second and third floors managed by workspace provider x+why, which will also operate the members’ business club on part of the 18th floor.
Wealth management and professional services group Tilney Smith & Williamson has agreed a ten-year lease on the 14th floor.
103 Colmore Row is scheduled for practical completion in November this year. The office space is being marketed by joint agents Colliers International, Cushman & Wakefield and Knight Frank.