Swindon Council planning committee has given permission for the owners of Alexander House to turn the side of their building into the biggest artwork in the town.
In a kick start to the regeneration of the town centre a ‘road’ is to be painted up the side of the liftshaft of the stark white office block facing Fleet Street and two fibreglass Minis on loan from BMW will be attached to it, one driving up the side, the other on the top. Also part of the decoration will be some roundabouts for which Swindon is famous for.
However the planners vetoed the idea of a speed camera on the top of Alexander House after the council became the first in the country to cut its funding for them.
The idea for decorating the building was suggested as a bit of fun in the July 2009 Swindon Link magazine when we suggested it was an ideal canvas for urban art and called for submissions using Photoshop or traditional pencil and paper.
Far from being offended Lenta Business Centres saw an opportunity to draw attention to Alexander House and offered to run a competition for young people and adults and to fund a technical feasibility of turning creative inspiration into reality, with support by town centre regeneration company, Forward Swindon.
In 2009 Alexander House manager Rachel Hampson, left, said she was taken aback when she saw the July Link magazine, after several tenants had sent texts about how we had provided unusual publicity. “Having been here for fifteen years I’m protective of the building, it has a good reputation, lovely tenants and owners who really care about the service we provide. But I was impressed by the quirky idea.
"Alexander House is very white and stands out in the town centre and I started wondering whether an artwork on the exterior could attract even more attention. I approached the owner and he could see the possibilities immediately."
After hearing that the planning committee had given Lenta permission for three years to mount the minis with the ‘road’ markings on the side of her building, Rachel said she was ‘over the moon’ "It’s so exciting that this project is now to become a reality.
"We studied the feasibility of using one of the competition entries but the cost was prohibitive. Then Forward Swindon heard that BMW had removed the two minis on the side of their pressing factory in Stratton and they were willing to lend them to us. It’s great that Alexander House is able to display two of Swindon’s iconic features – a car partly made in the town and our famous roundabouts.”
She said the contractors responsible for attaching minis for BMW to various buildings around the country will undertake the work. "Getting this far with the project has been hard work but it’s great that Alexander House is going to become a public art place and a talking point in the town."
She hopes the new work will be completed by the Spring.
Swindon Link publisher Roger Ogle said he’s delighted that the project is going ahead. “The minis driving to the top of Alexander House is a witty statement, much in keeping with the amazing murals that Swindon was famous for in the 1970s and 80s."
Robert Levey, Lenta managing director of Lenta, added: “We were taken by the idea of decorating and creating a talking point about Alexander House.
"We committed to actually turning the project into reality from the start and we’d like to thank Forward Swindon and BMW for their backing. I’m glad the council’s planning committee liked the idea”
Right, ideas submitted in 2009. See more digital treatments of Alexander House at: http://www.swindonlink.com/photo_gallery/colour-swindon-with-rainbows
See Swindon artist Ken White’s 1970s Golden Lion mural at http://www.swindonlink.com/features/kens-mural-returns-brighter-than-ever-before
Below, Rachel Hampson presented prizes to children at Peatmoor Primary School for their entries to the competition