As the streets of Mayfair & Belgravia reopen, we’re proud to have launched a series of striking flags with messages of hope and thanks across the neighbourhoods to say thank you to the NHS and key workers for their support during the Covid-19 pandemic. The vibrant flags across the two destinations have each been designed by celebrated artists as the district gets ready to welcome back visitors as further retail, hospitality and leisure businesses open up from Saturday 4 July.
The aerial flags across Mayfair have been designed by award winning Alex Fowkes, and are displayed on Mount Street, North Audley, Duke Street and South Molton. Belgravia’s flags have been designed by renowned New London Fabulous artist Adam Nathanial Furman and adorn the streets of Belgravia including Elizabeth Street, Motcomb Street, Pimlico Road and Eccleston Street. The flags will remain across the iconic streets for 2 months.
We speak to our flag artists Alex Fowkes and Adam Nathanial Furman about the inspirations and processes that took them through not only creating the designs for this project, but also the impact of artistic placemaking on a destination.
How do you go about creating a new design and how does the destination influence this?
Alex: Each street has a very distinct style, audience and persona. We were very careful in our choice of design to make sure each street and its audience is correctly represented. We take into account the location, the shops that exist and the customers that visit. All while still keeping a positive and uplifting message.
Adam: The spirit of the destination is integral to the design that I create, although of course it is always a meeting of my design language, and what I feel to be particularly relevant and inspirational characteristics of the place the work is being produced for -a felicitous meeting of inspiration and location if you will!
What was your inspiration for the flags across the destination you worked on?
Alex: The inspiration really came from the streets themselves. Also the fact we wanted to include thanking all key workers in the flags, these were both important influences. The colours used really represent the style of each street. I love how there’s a narrative through each street that carries across Mayfair as a destination.
Adam: I have always loved the intimate scale of Belgravia, how welcoming and unexpectedly cosy and fun it is despite being so close to major attractions and big roads, and I wanted to create flags that speak to this friendly warmth and intimacy in a way that is uplifting, and speaks to the area in a positive way at a time when I think such imagery will be very welcome.
How do you feel design and artwork adds to a destination?
Alex: Amplifying a feeling or emotion you experience when you visit a place is a wonderful task, I personally love responding to physical environments as it gives me something concrete to feed off. All I want to do is take that emotion and amplify it as much as possible.
Adam: For me it adds freshness, a dash and thrill of the new, it is always such a joy to go somewhere you know and love, and see not that it has changed -everything you love is still there- but that it is wearing a beautiful new gown, or a gorgeous new necklace, temporary artwork for destinations is like dressing up for people, it renders everything existing, for a moment, in a new light, and is fun, and a joy, it attracts attention in all the right ways and teaches us to once again appreciate what is always there, but which we sometimes stop looking at.
How do you see your role in the future of placemaking?
Alex: I’d love to create spaces from scratch. Usually I am responding to an existing environment and emphasising a message within that space, I would love to expand into creating environments to experience from conception through to production
Adam: It is my passion, I care about my city with a love that is very deep, it has made me everything I am, and I very much want to contribute to its public spaces. I have the knowledge and the ability to make a significant contribution, and am looking forward to working with estates like Grosvenor to produce more permanent placemaking that will benefit future generations.
What is special/unique about the London design scene?
Alex: London is one of the most creative and special cities in the world when it comes to design, there’s not many places that have such a concentration of highly talented individuals with companies that can support them and their work. What this does is create a perfect melting pot of design that is just constantly trying to outdo each other.
Adam: It is unique, it brings together economies of scale -an astonishing range of clients- with incredible opportunities for creating works in the actual spaces of the city, and a pool of talent that is unsurpassed in its vigour and diversity, something that has together led over the past decade to the fostering of a world-beating new set of names who have cut their teeth in the highly competitive, but incredibly rewarding, local design scene.
What’s the place in the world that has given you the most inspiration and why?
Alex: Many places give me inspiration but most of my inspiration comes from people not places. I’m a visual problem solver at heart. I need a problem, often created by people. Some may want to create an emotion or deliver a message, it’s then my job to solve that problem visually. That problem there, however small or large it may be is my source of inspiration.
Adam: London. As a queer person from a mixed background whose identity would be treated as distinctly other in most other cities, in London it is the norm to be “odd”, it is a city that is literally built on diversity and “mixiness”, multiculturalism and internationalism, and its design and arts and music and food scenes reflect this in endlessly exciting ways, and it was growing up here, being welcomed with open arms into all kinds of thrilling scenes and subcultures, that has been the most fundamental source of inspiration. Then of course there is Rome and Tokyo and Tel Aviv, and Buenos Aires, but those are a whole other story!
Your work is really diverse, how does your process change from project to project?
Alex: Exactly what I was talking about, visual problems come in all shapes and sizes. I’m a trained Graphic Designer so I’ve always had problem solving at the heart of what I do. To problem solve successfully you need to have a diverse range of approaches available for a successful as possible outcome.
Adam: It depends on a combination between the brief, the client, and the context. When I am doing a research-based project which is highly self-directed, I tend to go quite wild, mixing media, text, video, sculpture and drawing in strange combinations, but of course when it is a more practical commission I am more grounded. I spend some time -normally a couple of weeks- researching the place where the work will be placed, and writing thoughts on how different kinds of intervention might work with the brief. I then work through several design iterations to integrate the concept with a material and the site, and move through a backwards and forwards process between drawings, writing, and model making, until I reach a refined idea that balances well between the various concerns. It is actually a very traditional, and rather slow process, but I do love working in that manner so much, it is truly enriching, and tends to mean that each project, while all definitely being recognisably mine in style, are also really very distinct and have clearly separate and defined design DNAs…
How has being in lockdown affected your design process?
Alex: Lockdown has actually been amazing for my process. A lot of doors closed for me, which at first was very nerve wracking. It was a big conference and workshop year for me, but these all cancelled. From that a lot of new work emerged, a lot of murals and environmental artwork all aimed at being uplifting and thanking the public for their hard work. Lots of companies have been looking for the next new thing, new ideas often need designers and visual people to help realize. I’m lucky to be small and flexible enough to move with the needs.
Adam: It has been quite the change! I normally work in my studio, but have not been able to go back yet, so like everyone who has been lucky enough to be able to, I’ve been working from home, which has meant I have adjusted to using the tools that I have with me, different pens (lots of byro), no paints, utilising highlighters a lot… making models out of Amazon boxes has been particularly fun!