The Cosmology of St James's - The Ground Floor Project

Lola Lely is one of the two designers commissioned to create bespoke artworks for the lobby spaces of two landmark buildings within the St James’s neighbourhood of central London, part of The Ground Floor Project, on which The Architecture Foundation partnered with The Crown Estate

Lola Lely’s installation at 11 Charles II Street is entitled ‘The Cosmology of St James’s” and takes inspiration not only from the tradition of high end craft and making in the area but from Sir Isaac Newton who was a former resident of St James’s. A hanging kinetic piece formed of bespoke ‘satellites’ created from materials and tailoring patterns become a striking and vibrant addition to the double heighted entrance lobby. Her installation involved collaborating with local bootmaker’s John Lobb, who supplied historical templates and high quality materials for the art piece. 

Celebrating St James’s links to high-end tailors, merchants and craftsmen this sculpture takes the form of a suspended mobile incorporating eight ‘satellites’, which rotate by means of the natural airflow and ambient temperature fluctuations as people enter and leave the reception area. Constructed from various reflective and transparent materials, the satellites pour colour into different parts of the room, depending on the time of day. The frame, designed to disappear into the space, completes the enchantment, as the satellites appear to float, untethered and flickering, gently shifting and alive. 

Part of the research for this project involved delving into the archives and documenting the bespoke shoe lasts and foot measurements of some very famous clients. Nicholas Lobb, the manager director of John Lobb and the great, great grandson of founder, John Lobb, spent many weeks looking into these historic artefacts. Past clients include writer Roald Dahl (who had a large callous on his right foot), actor Sir Laurence Olivier and Oscar Wilde. 

Lola Lely said: “The shoe patterns from the archives of John Lobb Bootmaker’s were the main source of inspiration for my sculpture. I viewed these patterns as insightful historical documents; they are tellingly intimate and narrative objects. Using these patterns as a starting point, I distorted and reassembled the shapes to create new sculptural forms in a variety of different materials including, leather, glass and metal. This is not just a shiny piece of art, it resonates very strongly with the area.”

Images and video courtesy of Lola Lely Studio