Project Name: The Veil
Practice: Giles Miller Studio
Firm Location: London
Completion year: 2017
Project Location: Greater London, United Kingdom
Clients: Grafton Advisors
Contractors: Structure Tone
Others: Project Architect: Orms, Fabrication: Chasestead
Photo Credits: Petr KrejciMore Specs
Excerpt: The Veil is a structure installed by Giles Miller Studio in London. It is composed of thousands of brass ‘louvres’ arranged to create a rippling ‘veil’ over the space. The sculpture hides a mezzanine level office, bringing privacy to the inhabitants by way of its composition.
(“Text as submitted by architect”)
Giles Miller Studio has created The Veil, a 17-metre solid brass sculpture suspended across the first floor of a listed London building that allows light in and enables occupants to see out, while protecting their privacy by blocking the view in from the double height reception below. The ‘architectural artwork’ is the largest indoor installation that Giles Miller Studio has produced in the UK, and forms part of the studio’s ongoing experimental enquiry into how surfaces can define the spaces they inhabit.
The structure, installed at 20 St. James Street, a newly completed office building in St James, London, is composed of thousands of brass ‘louvres’ arranged to create a rippling ‘veil’ over the space. At first glance, the piece appears to be purely aesthetic, bringing character and depth to the space below – but in fact the sculpture hides a mezzanine level office, bringing privacy to the inhabitants by way of its composition.
Our client, Grafton Advisors, wanted something iconic and impactful, but also had a specific functional requirement, which was the starting point for the design,’ says founder Giles Miller. ‘Our aspiration was to push that functionality so far that the piece could become something else entirely – we asked ourselves how something that acts as a mask to a hidden space could have such inherent beauty that the viewer may never wish to look beyond it.’ Visitors to the reception are unable to see through the sculpture due to the angle of the louvres, but that same angle lets natural light into the office above and enables those inhabiting the first floor office to see out through giant arched windows at the front of the building.
The 3200 brass pieces were laser cut and then individually machine-bent before being slotted into the vertical contoured ‘ribs’ that make up the undulating shape of The Veil. The holes and slots in the ribs were algorithmically designed and laser-cut according to the studio’s design to ensure that each louvre would be held at exactly the right angle to achieve the desired effect. Each one was dry-slotted into place and screw-fixed by hand using brass binding bolts, before being hung in metre-long sections. The whole process took 18 months from brief to installation.
Our design team worked extremely hard along with specialist structural engineers to develop the project in a way that didn’t allow the mechanical requirements to compromise the aesthetics,’ says Miller. ‘Having overcome all the challenges, it was immensely satisfying to see the final piece in context, and we are delighted that the client took the risk and pushed us to create something that went beyond sculpture into something that functioned so well for the space on multiple levels.’ The fusion of artistic expression with architectural functionality is bringing new value to the work of the London-based studio, whose work spans surface, sculpture and architectural projects.