Public art in Fitzrovia: On Reflection, British Transport Police headquarters

An early morning stroll along Whitfield Street after officers have driven away their vehicles from outside the British Transport Police central London headquarters reveals the beautiful mosaics created nearly two decades ago.

Mosaic on wall.
The left side mosaic panel up close is abstract.

Up close it is difficult to discern what they are. But cross to the other side of the road and they emerge as a shimmering reflection.

For this intricate artwork, Paul J Marks combined time-consuming hand skills with computer technology to design and produce two mosaics for the building’s front elevation. The design brief required that the work “interact and integrate with the architecture of the building and Crabtree Fields garden”. Used by the local residential and working communities, the garden was identified as a focal point in providing an antithesis to the urban environment.

Mosaic on wall.
Right side mosaic. The mosaic consists of 45 colours and 40,000 hand-cut tiles.

From an initial 300 enquiries to the brief, Marks’ design was selected from 70 artists proposals.

Entitled On Reflection, Marks used a palate of 45 colours, then hand-cut 40,000 vitrified ceramic triangles and assembled them piece by piece to his computer generated design. This process took three months to complete.

Up close the work seems completely abstract. Further away the arrangement of triangles appear as small three-dimensional pyramids. Further still and the mosaics reveal themselves to be images of the garden opposite the building, and the rear of the houses in Charlotte Street. Marks describes the images as being “low resolution mirrors”.

Mosaic panels on front of building.
From other side of the road the mosaics appear as a shimmering reflection of the park opposite.

“I wanted to create a work that engages people. Time and movement are integral to this work. It should not be immediately evident that the work is in any way representative. The eventual realisation that it is adds to the experience.”

Anyone familiar with London and the underground will know the landmark mosaics by Eduardo Paolozzi in Tottenham Court Road station, originally created in 1986 and which were restored in 2017. Marks’ work only a few minutes walk away makes a striking comparison.

“I am constantly exploring new methods of producing works in a medium that is one of the oldest art forms we have. This commission was an ideal opportunity to create a work using a fundamentally different approach to the more traditional methods used in the Tottenham Court Road tube,” said Marks.

On Reflection (2003) by Paul J Marks: Commission for the British Transport Police Headquarters, Whitfield Street, Fitzrovia, London W1.