2010, Guys Hospital, London
Scanning lasers and painted steel

Light as a material / substance.


Guiding metaphor – breath:

  • The vital force of a living person or animal
  • The physical process through which our bodies literally incorporate their environments
  • The ‘sign’ of life
  • An energy producing process


The concept of Breath contains duality, paradox:

  • In / out
  • Appearance / disappearance
  • Adding / taking away
  • Presence / absence
  • Full / empty
  • Light / shadow

Initial visual concepts for the work embody this duality. During the hours of darkness we imagine a ‘veil’ of light hovering on the surface of both towers, created using simple arrays of projected light (scanning laser). The presence of the veil is both fragile and spectacular at the same time. The nature of the light produced using this type of laser system is that it is ever changing and dependent on the position of the viewer in relation to it and on climatic and environmental conditions. It therefore possesses an intrinsic interactive quality: a simple change of position can transform its intensity and luminosity and the presence of a fine drizzle or dust particles in the air for example can completely change its materiality.

This veil of light is ‘parted’ or ‘breached’ by numerous ‘stoppers’, sculptural elements (coloured) which obstruct the light and articulate a pattern of unlit lines within its surface. These sculptural elements of multiple forms, have both a day and night identity: during daylight hours they articulate a random coloured topography on the surface of the tower whilst at night they recede, becoming silent ‘stoppers’, their role reversed, and a landscape of light forms around them.

The piece brings a unique radiance to Guy’s tower, one that has major impact whilst remaining dignified and appropriate to the significance of the tower and the hospital as a whole. The work aims to differentiate itself from the adjacent monumental presence of the Shard by creating a sense of luminosity and fragility and an almost organic feel. Beyond this it offers a major light artwork to the London skyline and, significantly, a work specific to and commissioned by a public, utilitarian building bound to the community rather than the corporate world. Our working principle is to create a piece that avoids overstatement but nonetheless embodies a sense of scale and sobriety that is consistent with the significance of the building and its function.