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Other Involved Parties: FORM Architects, May Construction Group
When FORM Architects contacted SUI for graphic design collaboration for National Grid’s offices, it seemed at first a modest project with a few graphic elements to brand the space. However, as the project progressed it expanded to include custom string art and a hand-painted mural. How it evolved:
The Phone Room is a small triangular area that serves mainly as a walkway between spaces. National Grid wanted to add an element of interest to the almost 18’ long wall with a digitally printed graphic reproduced from an antique photograph.
Unfortunately, the photo’s resolution was too low to produce a large scale print of quality but rather would create unattractive artifacts visible to the viewers. Besides, the square photo would have to be reformatted to create a rectangular graphic but that would have introduced unwanted distortions.
SUI proposed a hand-painted mural that would elegantly span the entire wall with no resolution issues and a pleasant viewing experience even at close proximity.
Following approval, we worked on mock-ups to show how the wall could be filled by extending the tank behind the sign. The tank’s appearance was dark and heavy in an area with little natural light. To compensate for the darkness and ease National Grid’s concerns, we added period-appropriate advertisements that brought more white to the mural. The end result was “incredible.”
The wall string art in the Boardroom is the showpiece of the office. The Boardroom features floor to ceiling glass, an elongated wood conference table, and a dramatic blue diamond painted on a white wall. This blank expanse became the “canvas” for a nail and string art piece.
Initially, it was conceived of as an outline of the city’s skyline. As the installation progressed, it was apparent the white “canvas” background was overpowering the design and dramatic impact was lost. Our artist determined by filling in the skyline and clustering certain areas with more nails and string it would create more depth and achieve the desired effect. In the end, he weaved a dramatic “showstopper.”
Interview with Client and Artist
Emily J. Duncan, Esq. (Director of Federal Government Relations at National Grid)
What was your experience working with SUI?
Working with SUI was a great experience. They were incredibly patient with us as we made creative decisions and changed our minds as designs adapted. They were responsive via email and called whenever they needed clarification. The on-site installers and artists were friendly, courteous, respectful and wonderful to work with. Highly recommend this company.
Did you have any concerns about accomplishing National Grid’s vision for the space at the beginning of the project?
I think there is always trepidation at the beginning of a project and questions about whether it will really turn out the way you envision or expect. Will it meet those expectations and will the design be cohesive and take best advantage of the space?
What was your initial impression of the mural?
The mural is incredible. Watching the artist work so patiently and with such attention to detail was really something. Everyone who sees it is wowed by it.
What was your initial impression of the nail and string art?
This was one of the design elements that adapted in real time. When we saw the initial outline, we were nervous that no one would know what it was and it wouldn’t pop enough on such a large wall. SUI quickly adapted the design and the artist turned around a show stopper. Guests in our space take pictures of it to share with their colleagues, and many say they have never seen anything like it before in a professional space. We are incredibly happy with how it turned out.
Robert Mayhew (In-House Artist at SUI)
What challenges did you encounter in painting the mural?
Originally, it was planned I would project the image on the wall and use it as a guide. However, due to the tight quarters I couldn’t properly position the projector. Instead, I had to freehand the mural.
What inspired the pattern in the silhouette of the city?
It’s reflective of how I draw with pencil. It’s a bunch of lines that cross-hatch. Here, instead of pencil, when I want darker areas I criss-cross more string.
What was the most rewarding part of the project?
Regarding the mural, collaborating over inserting the ads that would fill the sides. Overall, it was just rewarding to see the project come together. First as mock-ups, then drawing on the walls, and then painting it in or setting the string.