In December, I was lucky enough to receive an invite from my friend and photographer Iain Jaques to get involved in an arts project being run by Leicester City Council.
Since the mid-1970s, the council’s administrative headquarters have been in the New Walk Centre, a pair of 9- and 14-story office blocks in the city. There are very few high-rise buildings in Leicester and the buildings, with their opposing arcs, have always been a landmark, visible from much of the city centre and the surrounding hills.
In 2009, structural surveys showed that the buildings were no longer safe to be inhabited at full capacity and the process of relocation of staff and removal of the building began. On June 20th, 2014, the last employees left and the buildings were handed over to the company that will dismantle them.
The project saw artists working in various media visit the buildings on four Sundays through 2013, one in each season of the year. I attended the final visit on 1st December that ran for four hours from mid-afternoon.
I arrived (unusually) early on a cold, clear day and spent an hour photographing the building from the outside, concentrating on its dominance of the area of town. It loomed over smaller buildings and was reflected in every surface. I had never entered the buildings and to me, it was more of a monolithic (if two buildings can be monolithic!) icon than workplace. I had no feeling or attachment for the place.
On arrival on the 12th floor, it was quite an odd experience to receive a safety briefing before being allowed to walk around an office, but large areas of the space were clear of furniture and taped off. We could walk across these spaces but were encouraged not to dwell in them!
What struck me immediately was what it must have been like to have such an incredible, 360 degree view of the city from your desk, looking down on the people and the city that you served. I wondered how much of my nine-to-five would have been productive with such an impressive distraction. The view continued to evolve through the afternoon as the low winter sun set in a spectacular orange finale – it seemed fitting to be making a record of this condemned building as the sun went down.
The resulting images, drawings and the works inspired by the visit are being collected into an exhibition at Leicester’s LCB Depot later this month – CLICK HERE for details. It features a range of artists and work, from my rather straight-forward print through video, laser etching, screen printing, collage work to a performance piece. I managed to attend only half of one of the meetings that the group of artists held leading up to the show as I was always double booked (everything happens in Leicester on a Tuesday), but was very pleased when one of my images was chosen for the exhibition’s promotional flyers.
I’ll also miss the exhibition’s opening viewing and be away for most of the period that the work is on show. Despite this, it has still been a useful learning exercise in selecting work to show, printing it, preparing an artistic statement etc.
The image that I have chosen to show is the one below. It is a view from the 12th floor (that is the exhibition’s title after all) and looks at the end of the building I was in and its counterpart opposite. I was attracted by one building being lit by the sunset, while the other was in shade and having a blue hue, being lit by the sky. Someone would have seen this view everyday of their working life.
More of the pictures I took that day are in the slideshow below or in this Flickr set.