Christmas Tree

Tate Britain, London

2016

Hyde Park Corner

London

2016 (unrealised)

Marble Arch

London

2014 (unrealised)

Chrysalis

Jimmy Choo, London

2014

Breath

La Biennale di Venezia

2013

Altar

Church of St Martin in the Fields, London

2011

Olympic Park Sculpture

East London

2009 (unrealised)

East Window

Church of St Martin in the Fields, London

2008

Tokyo Midtown Project

Sculpture Tower

2006

Playground

Peckham, SE London

2004

Battery Park New York

Sculpture Tower

2004

Münsterland Germany

Sculpture Tower

2003

UBS London

Sculpture Tower

2001

Earth Spiral

Basel Switzerland

2000

Christmas Tree

Tate Gallery, London

1993

Christmas Tree
Tate Britain, London
2016

Photographs by Jake Humphreys

Hyde Park Corner
London
2016
(unrealised)

Marble Arch
London
2014
(unrealised)

Chrysalis
Jimmy Choo,
Bond Street, London
2014

Photographs by James Morris

Breath
La Biennale di Venezia
2013

For her presentation as a Collateral Event of the 55. International Art Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia, Shirazeh Houshiary presented Breath: a four channel video that was first conceived in 2003, in a remastered version and as part of a unique, site-specific installation.

In Breath (2013), the evocative chants of Buddhist, Christian, Jewish and Islamic prayers emanate from four video screens. The sound is choreographed with images that capture the expanding and contracting breath of the vocalists. The installation takes the form of a rectangular enclosure clad in black felt, which is entered through a narrow passage that leads to a dimly lit white interior. There are four screens hung at eye level from which the chants of the different traditions rise and fall, swell and dissipate in a haunting chorus that fills the room and permeates beyond each of its walls. Where inside there is unity, outside is multiplicity.

The location for Houshiary’s dramatic rendering of Breath is Torre di Porta Nuova, a tower built during the restoration of the Arsenale that took place between 1809 and 1814. Erected adjacent to what was a newly opened gateway on the Arsenale’s Eastern wall, and close to 35 metres in height, the imposing tower was built to enable the mechanical placement of masts on large ships.

Inspired by the history, location and scale of the Torre, Houshiary envisioned a structure – an enclosure swathed in heavy cloth, its presence constituted by an act of veiling – in which to house the animation. The structure will appear as a haunting presence within the Tower’s vaulted interior, acting to both capture and coalesce the disparate invocations of the vocalists, and also to isolate and extract them: projecting the sounds into the wider space. Houshiary has reconceived the work so that it inhabits and transforms the Tower, and at the same time, asks that the work be shaped by the specificity of the space: a Tower that is the gateway to the Arsenale, a boundary and a threshold.

Photographs by James Morris

Altar
St Martin in the Fields
Trafalgar Square London
2011

The form of the proposed altar resembles a sarcophagus and is made from a single travertine block. It ‘floats’ on a plinth of dark stained oak similar to the material of the church’s choir stalls and seating. The bone coloured ‘travertino osso’ surface is full of natural open pores and fissures that suggest wounds, skin and body. The centre of the altar top gently ‘glows’ to achieve a transfigured expression.

The altar is a very simple design where the presence is revealed subtly from within. This is complimentary to the new East Window where presence is expressed by radiating outwards. Both suggest presence being revealed in absence.

Collaboration with Pip Horne

Photographs by James Morris

Olympic Park Sculpture
East London
2009
(unrealised)

The proposal is a sculpture tower approximately 75 metres high. The site commands a central position in the Olympic Park London.

Inspired by the Olympic rings the sculpture consists of five ascending steel spiralling ribbons that unravel from the ground. Each of these ribbons rise at a different wavelength and intertwine and weave gently upwards. From a distance its curves and bends at first appear random but to view it up close or to look up from the centre of its base reveals its concentric movement.

The ribbons are made from polished and textured stainless steel which in the changing daylight will animate and dissolve as if in a dance. This is further enhanced at night by using fibre optic lighting which is integrated within the nodes of each ribbon and extend upwards the entire length. The lighting can then be programmed with different lighting themes in any colour and choreographed to suit any event pre Games, during or post Games over part or the entire structure. This can be achieved remotely or a haptic way by touching the surface of the ribbons at the base.

The structure will be an iconic image easily seen from all parts of the Olympic Park and beyond. Its form and meaning may be interpreted as a crossover between culture and nature. The Olympic ideal of ‘swifter, higher, stronger’ is manifest in its composition evoking the sensuousness of muscle and sinew and the pursuit of excellence. Conversely it may be seen as the fire or flame that ignited the Olympic movement.

In Legacy mode the sculpture and its organic form will become the centrepiece of the new park as it transforms and matures over time. The sinuous rhythm of the steel ribbons will be an object of imagination, inspiration and beauty and be completely in tune with its natural surroundings, the winding canals and waterways of the River Lea, the newly planted native species trees, and the wetland habitat for wildlife.

The proposal is to be an aspirational and long lasting symbol for the park and its unique identity.

Collaboration with Pip Horne

East Window
Church of St Martin in the Fields
Trafalgar Square, London
2008

James Gibbs great church was completed in 1726 and has recently undergone complete renovation and restoration. The original vision of Gibbs was to have no stained glass and that all glazing was made up of simple mouth blown glass. Its most important aspect is the East elevation and the new East window is a monochromatic design celebrating light. It is an abstract design, but has strong religious, spiritual and architectural resonances.

The window is held within a shot peened stainless steel framework comprising of hand made glass panels etched on both sides with a subtle feathery pattern based on fragments of Houshiary paintings. The warp and weft design of the structure and the twist at its centre creates a vertical energy echoing the agony of the cross. The centre ellipse is an icon of contemplation and echoes the original architectural and decorative elements within the church.

Each evening the ellipse is subtly lit and increases with the fading light to create a strong visual effect that can be seen from both inside and outside.

Collaboration with Pip Horne

Photographs by James Morris

Bloom
Tokyo Midtown Project
Roppongi Tokyo
2006

Situated at the threshold of the Tokyo Midtown development this sculpture tower is constructed in hollow aluminium blocks, anodized in a light blue colour.

The internal structure is complex as it has to comply with rigid safety standards and to withstand earthquakes. It is made of stainless steel and polished to a mirror finish to dissolve inside the piece. The internal structure is seen as complimetary to the overall form. The movement of the tower is in the colour as well as the shifting multi faceted filigree of blocks.

Collaboration with Pip Horne

Photographs by Hirofumi Tani

Playground
Peckham SE London
2004

The brief by ‘Art for the World’ was to design a playground for children who have experienced was and destruction and who have been robbed form the experience of childhood. This is a playground which challenges the traditional model of robustness.

Inspired by a passage in the movie ‘Stalker’ by Tarkovsky the poet tells the scientist in the ruins of a nuclear disaster that ‘life is fragile and soft and death is hard and strong’.

It is a cube of 5 metres and made of suspended yellow fabric which oscillates with the wind and weather like being in a cornfield. Children who have experienced such devastation will understand the softness of this experience, and see it as a place of wonder and escapism, reflection and optimism.

Sited outside a school in south east London as a prototype the playground structure and fabric can be modified to suit the particular site conditions in war torn/devastated areas of the world.

Collaboration with Pip Horne

Breath
Battery Park New York
2004

Created in the vicinity of Ground Zero in lower Manhattan this sculpture tower is constructed in glazed white bricks chosen to dissolve in the intense light.

The surface of the tower is perforated. Sound emanates and reverberates from its interior with chants of four different cultures… Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam. These chants interweave from dawn to dusk. They are the call for unity and connection.

Collaboration with Pip Horne.

Photographs by charliesamuels.com

Breath
Freckenhorst, Münsterland
2003

This is a sculpture tower made with large cast white limestone blocks and a sound system is installed within.

‘In Münsterland, a tower calls for unity. Humming from dawn to dusk, its sound reverberates in space, expanding the sculpture’s energy and message to humanity as a wished-for congregation. Installed near the Romanesque church of St. Bonifatius in Freckenhorst and not so far from the mosques of a nearby Muslim community, it reflects on the possibility of release from a vision of the world impaired by divisions.’
(Extract from Münsterland Sculpture project catalogue by Fereshteh Daftari)

Collaboration with Pip Horne

Photographs by Roman Mensing

Hum
UBS City of London
2001

This sculpture tower is sited on the atrium floor of the Bank’s HQ building. It is constructed from cast glass blocks creating a translucent skin around the helical polished stainless steel structure within. The changes of light animate its vertical movement revealing at times a column of air, ice or water.

This fluidity of change allows the viewer to contemplate its playfulness.

Collaboration with Pip Horne.

Photographs by James Morris

Earth Spiral
Basel Switzerland
2000

The site at the far end of Claraplatz is a busy urban centre and transport terminus.

The sculpture tower is made of a single leaf of terracotta bricks with a hollow centre. Each course of bricks rotates by 4.5 degrees and rises to complete a full revolution within its overall height. There is no mortar joint between bricks and brick courses.

The column creates visual movement transforming its dual nature of earth and weight into air and lightness. Of particular interest is the column as seen by the typical tram passenger gliding by and witnessing its changing form and vertical energy.

Collaboration with Pip Horne.

Christmas Tree,
Tate Gallery, London
1993

Invited to create the Tate Gallery Christmas Tree the intention was to move away from the traditional notion of decorating the tree and instead focus on its natural qualities.

The fir tree was turned upside down hanging it from the Gallery ceiling and exposing its roots. These were covered in gold leaf to focus light upwards away from the branches and to ‘take earth back to heaven’.