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VIDEO: Augmented Reality Installations Bring the City of London to Life


The compositions, performed by soloists from the LSO, form part of an augmented reality installation featuring 3D animation.

VIDEO: Augmented Reality Installations Bring the City of London to Life

Four newly composed pieces of music by students from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and performed by soloists from the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) have been unveiled today at London Wall Place to enliven the historic centre of the City of London.

The pieces, inspired by four spaces across London Wall Place - the City's largest green space - form part of an augmented reality (AR) installation - HARMONY. Produced by Guildhall Live Events and its award-winning Creative Director, Dan Shorten, HARMONY will be on show from 12 October across London Wall Place.

HARMONY consists of four augmented reality artworks, coupled with newly commissioned pieces of music. Musicians from the LSO, including Gareth Davies (flute), Anna Bastow (viola), James Maynard (trombone) and Andy Harper (clarinet), mentored Guildhall School students from the Electronic and Produced Music course to help them create the works.

Guildhall School students composed the four pieces inspired by the unique surroundings of London Wall Place - the largest green space in the Square Mile - and a place of historic importance, where ancient ruins lie among modern architecture, the Barbican highwalks and peaceful gardens and water features. The musicians from the LSO performed the students' works to create soundtracks which, when combined with the corresponding artworks, create an augmented reality experience.

Dan Shorten led the AR element of the project, supported by a team of graduate animators from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama to create the four digital works. Each installation features 3D animation overlaid onto the feed of a user's phone camera, enabling them to listen to music and watch the animation as they move around the space.

The four artworks have been installed at distinct zones across London Wall Place: the Roman St Alphage's ruins, the One London Wall Place water feature, the gardens near the Minotaur statue and the highwalks. Each one is intrinsically connected to the specific site and the nature of the environment they're set in, with each music piece featuring a solo acoustic instrumental part - flute, trombone, viola and clarinet.

Dan Shorten, Creative Director at Guildhall Live Events said: "HARMONY highlights the delicate balance of the elements that make a particular place unique. Collectively, the augmented reality, music compositions and totems draw inspiration from this magical blend of characteristics in the City of London and celebrate its place-specific creative energy by balancing contrasting elements unique to each location, such as the ancient and the modern at St. Alphage's Gardens, the flora and fauna at Salter's Gardens, the groundedness and flight at highwalks, and the stillness and movement at One London Wall Place water feature."

Gareth Davies, Principal Flute at London Symphony Orchestra, said: "After such a long time not being able to work with other musicians, it's been wonderful to collaborate with young composers from the Guildhall School. The future seemed quite bleak at times and so it is particularly important that we've been able to help and encourage the younger generation in writing new pieces which can be shared with people as they gradually come back into the city."

Through their phones, visitors will experience the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly on the highwalks, a seahorse leaping out of the water feature, a griffin flying out of the St Alphage's ruins and a hummingbird flying over Salter's Gardens.

Co-commissioned by Culture Mile and Brookfield Properties, the four artworks form the second phase in a trilogy of creative projects that constitute the PLAY festival, due to take place in 2022 as a series of larger scale in-person performances at London Wall Place around a custom-designed pavilion by the ruins.

Culture Mile is the City of London's new cultural district, stretching from Farringdon to Moorgate. Led by the City of London Corporation, with the Barbican, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London Symphony Orchestra and Museum of London, the five partners are together creating a vibrant, creative area in the north-west corner of the Square Mile.

Wendy Hyde, Chair of the Culture, Heritage and Libraries Committee, City of London Corporation said: "Culture Mile's ongoing collaboration with Brookfield Properties continues to present innovative and bold new work, which showcases how culture and commerce can work together to encourage people back to the City - a dynamic, vibrant place to live, work and visit."

Caitlin Warfield - Vice President, Marketing U.K. Office Division Brookfield Properties, said: "Arts and culture are an intrinsic part of Brookfield Properties. We are proud to be working with Culture Mile once again to enliven the City and welcome back workers and visitors to the Square Mile. With HARMONY, as well as our other installations across the City, all of which are completely free and open to the public, we want to strike the right balance between returning to the office and creating a new future by transforming places to somewhere we all want to come together."

Last year, Culture Mile and Brookfield Properties partnered with the LSO to create two short films celebrating the creative energy of the City featuring LSO musicians and dancers in collaboration with emerging filmmakers. The two films, PLAY: Rising and PLAY: The Spell & The Promise, which were filmed in lockdown, featured LSO musicians Gareth Davies and Maxine Kwok, filmmakers Antonia Luxem and Lexi Kiddo and dancers Marie Astrid Mence, Salome Pressac and Faye Stoeser. These films were recently shortlisted in this year's Brand Film Awards. Both works were performed by the LSO at a sold-out world premiere at Jerwood Hall, LSO St Luke's London on Friday 16th July 2021.

Additional information on the four AR pieces that make up HARMONY


Stillness & Movement

The artwork extracts an imagined underwater world above the water's surface, with visuals cascading into the air in swirling, shimmering patterns to create a calm and reflective feeling in visitors. Inspired by the location's clean, straight lines and soft, gentle reflections, the organic movement on the rippling water's surface is echoed in the pace and rhythm of the movement of the animations. This movement at times contracts and even ceases completely, displaying the animations rising from the water as fixed in time. The central 3D character is a seahorse, representing the gentle flowing rhythm of the water feature. The accompanying music piece is by Will Davenport, featuring a viola instrumental part, played by Anna Bastow.


Natural & Constructed

The artwork is inspired by the layout of the gardens, with its carefully constructed lines and shapes between pathways and flowerbeds used as a cue to generate linear geometric patterns and structures in the animation. Floral, organic elements are elegantly intertwined within these geometric patterns, mirroring the modern buildings that surround the space. The central 3D character is a hummingbird, representing the natural beauty of the garden situated within a thriving urban landscape. The accompanying music piece is by Jasmine Meadon, featuring a flute instrumental part, played by Gareth Davies.


Ancient & Modern

The artwork explicitly disrupts the space it is situated in by highlighting the age of the ruins and their surroundings by using overtly contemporary graphic design to contrast the presence of something ancient and unyielding with constantly evolving abstract shapes and particle systems that cross and divide the space. The arched doorways act as portals to other locations or times, with the animations changing and evolving as they move through them. The central 3D character is a geometric, abstract Griffin, representing the city's longevity. The accompanying music piece is by Nicola Clifton Perikhanyan, featuring a clarinet instrumental part, played by Andy Harper.


Air & Earth

The artwork portrays the sensation of elevating energy up from the ground and moving freely through the air, inspired by the pedestrian use of the pathways. Grounded and heavy elements are rooted into the path, such as stone and metal emerging from and in between the pavement, giving a sense of power, strength and stability. More delicate shapes, objects and textures form out of this foundation to rise up into the sky, with clean, geometric shapes at ground level becoming more organic and softer as they rise. The 3D character is an abstracted caterpillar that becomes a butterfly, representing the transition from groundedness to flight. The accompanying music piece is by Sam Dinley, featuring a trombone instrumental part, played by James Maynard.

HARMONY is on view at London Wall Place from today, Tuesday, 12 October 2021.

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