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Lykeios: sculpture for ‘The Lycée’, a Victorian school building converted into apartments – London, October 2000
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What does it mean to turn a castle into a hotel, a theatre or a cinema into a car park, a residential
building into a bank, a church into a nightclub or a school into luxury apartments? What happens
to a building when it no longer fulfils the purpose for which it was created and which determined
its form? What connection can it have with its environment and with its new occupants?
‘The Lycée’, viewed from outside, is still a school with no sign of its new identity. The architecture
is unchanged. The pediment still indicates its former function. It has even been given the name of a school. The original wall conceals that the playground is now a car park.
Inside, the classrooms have become living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms. Covered in carpet, the stairways no longer resound with children noise and laughter. The bell, which used to give a rhythm to each school day, has been taken down.
The purpose of this work is to establish a connection between the past and the future of the building, inviting it to project onto its new occupants the stimulating energy acquired during its years as a school.
The piece will adopt the form of a triptych:
The first panel reestablishes a dialogue between the building and its surroundings.
The second panel intends to create a link between the inhabitants themselves.
The third one connects the site with the rest of the World.
Apollo’s temple, Delphi (Greece)
The uppermost parts of the roof, comprising a ‘turret’ and a balcony, provide a perfect architectural metaphor for education. The turret borrows its shape from a temple and the balcony, evoking a pulpit, relates to verbal communication. Together, they present a clear image of knowledge and its diffusion. We also can see the representations of a ‘lantern’ and an observatory -the lantern allows daylight to illuminate the interior of a building. The observatory invites information from the outside world for an internal use. Contact with the environment is doubly emphasized.
By the use of light, the first wing of the triptych gives a visual sign to the surroundings as a commemoration of the strong ties (today vanished) that used to unite a the building, as a school, with its local community.
Representing the importance of both languages in Western culture, the words ‘Lykaios’ and ‘Lupus’ (‘wolf’ in Greek and Latin) provide the colours for the lights inside each pinnacle. Translated first into their numeric values, then in the corresponding colors, the two words give a light purple for one and yellow for the other.
Outside the turrets, eight projectors outline the balustrades of the balconies in a pale white light.
The second panel of the triptych aims to emphasize a spirit of community in the’Lycée’
Several times a day, the sound of the bell used to summon pupils to lessons, to give the signal of recesses or of release. The original bell had been removed but its mechanism kept intact. For this work, a new bell had been cast and reinstated on site. It will now ring just once a year to invite the residents and their friends to a yearly party. The event will take place in one or another unit of the building and should occur at a date close to the beginning of the school year which is also the time when social life starts again, after the Summer break.
Mute for the rest of the year, the bell bears, engraved in the metal, a Latin sentence meaning ‘Even whilst silent I speak’. It then appears as a permanent reminder of the spirit of community and the energy that used to characterize the building when a school and which hopefully reflects on its new inhabitants.
The bell, its sound, everybody present in the party, their acts, their conversations and the building itself become, then, intrinsic parts of the ‘sculpture'.
The third wing of the triptych offers the opportunity for ‘The Lycée’ to be connected to the outside world.
During the party, there will be an opportunity for those who attend to make a donation. The raised money will be given to an organization concerned with the protection of endangered species, and particularly with the reintroduction of wolves to their natural habitat*.
This living part of the work gives the ‘sculpture’ a much larger scale. It links a building in the heart of London to completely wild places – a distant plain or valley somewhere in the world – inhabited by superb animals.