1 Finsbury Avenue is a Grade II listed building originally constructed in the early 1980s by Arup Associates. AHMM – we visited last year during London Festival of Architecture – refurbished 1 Finsbury Avenue Square re-establishing the public route through 1 Finsbury Avenue, an important element in activating the ground floor and connecting this building with Finsbury Avenue Square and the Broadgate Campus and shifting the building’s emphasis from single tenancy to mixed-use retail, leisure and flexible working spaces.
As part of the redevelopment of Broadgate’s inaugural building 1 Finsbury Avenue Square, British Land has commissioned a series of permanent works by British artist Morag Myerscough. The works encompass the entire ground floor of the newly created public space, providing a visual welcome in Myerscough’s signature style.
The striking centrepiece is the biophilic installation ‘Atoll’ – a colourful permanent 7.5m high structural intervention housing a cafe. Atoll is envisaged as a beacon that will encourage the public to use the newly opened route connecting the surrounding neighbourhood to the Broadgate campus, making a formerly corporate space accessible to all. The semi-open nature of the interior also means that workers on the mezzanine levels can look down at the verdant planting within the structure.
Myerscough’s inspiration for Atoll comes from her own connections with London, having lived here all her life, and the biophilia hypothesis – the idea that humans have an innate tendency to seek connections with nature. Myerscough’s many public projects have drawn inspiration from how colour and nature help to improve wellbeing.
“My fascination with how the Victorians made public parks for city workers to get fresh air at weekends (as a child I lived very close to Finsbury Park) has inspired me to bring the park to the workplace at 1 Finsbury Avenue Square,” Myerscough explains.
The lower level is occupied by a café, run by Butterscotch Bakery, whilst the upper level of the Atoll incorporates the outline of three London terraced houses, surrounded by dense planting and completed with six neon suns signifying joy and energy. The houses make reference to Broadgate’s residential history, introducing a sense of intimacy and domesticity to the space.
At the public entry lobbies on the eastern and western sides of the building, Myerscough has incorporated Tri-wall advertising boards, animating three patterns. The concept, which was also successfully executed by Myerscough in her scheme for the Design Museum’s ‘Designer Maker User’ permanent exhibition, provides a warm welcome to visitors. The rotating Tri-wall format also gives a nod to the building’s 1980s heritage, further celebrating the era of Broadgate’s inception whilst looking to the future.
The installation continues to spread through the whole of the atrium with large-scale patterned hand-painted walls. An expansive seating area with hand-made and hand-painted overstuffed velvet cushioned seating, tables, benches and planters, designed and made by Myerscough and Luke Morgan at their local Hoxton studio. A rear translucent screen is covered in plants held within a bespoke metal planting grid designed and fabricated by Morgan.
The materiality of the permanent installation is as important as narrative, with bespoke ceramic tiles and FSC-rated marine ply. Morag spent months developing the tiling, mixing Victorian references with her own signature colours and 3-D/optical patterns. The vibrant patterns contrast with 1FA’s symmetricality, dark bronze anodized cladding and black-painted exposed interior structure.
Public artworks have been part of the DNA of Broadgate since its inception. Broadgate’s long-standing commitment to art and design is evident in its carefully curated collection. Prominent permanent works include Richard Serra’s ‘Fulcrum’, Jim Dine’s ‘East End Venus’, Fernando Botero’s ‘Broadgate Venus’ and David Batchelor’s ‘Chromarama’. Works enliven public spaces and extend into the lobbies of buildings and across the neighbourhood. Visitors can take in the works via the Art Trail or simply explore London’s most diverse and welcoming art gallery which includes the newest additions at 1FA by Myerscough.
Photography by Gareth Gardner