Pentagram x Karel Martens

Signage & Environmental Graphics

A collaboration with artist Karel Martens for a modern workspace in the City of London.

Pentagram has collaborated with award-winning artist Karel Martens on two new large-scale pieces of bespoke artwork for a client based in the heart of the City of London. Ranging from macro to micro and from landscape to abstract, the pieces feature on internal glass and fabric panels, acoustic screens and doors. 

Pentagram previously collaborated with Martens and placemaking agency Futurecity to create a permanent installation at the specialist Cancer Centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital. The celebrated Dutch graphic designer is well known for blurring the lines between art and design. Fascinated by optical illusions, geometric shapes and repeated patterns, Martens produces experimental one-of-a-kind images, environmental supergraphics and large-scale digital installations.

The first artwork is based around numbers—a universal language which forms the bedrock of business, analytics and data. Data is currently transforming every aspect of our lives, and driving a sustainable development revolution that the City plays a big part in. 

Karel Martens has brought this theme to life using the concept of Magic Numbers. The ‘magic square’ is used in combination with a number series based on a prime number. A magic square is a square diagram in which numbers are arranged so that the columns, rows and both diagonals all yield the same sum. The magic squares and large-scale numbers featured on the panels create a colourful, geometric modular typeface. This gives the artwork a screen-like quality, which is perfect for giving privacy while keeping a feeling of light and space.

The second artwork is inspired by maps of the English coastline, where land meets sea and adventures begin. It embodies the pioneering spirit and problem-solving which is part of the city client's DNA, helping businesses navigate their own journeys.

Martens took his inspiration from a series of Victorian plates comprising a plan, sections and views of the coast of East Devon, between Axmouth and Lyme Regis. These diagrams show the changes produced by the subsidence of the land and elevation of the bottom of the sea on the 26th of December 1839 and 3rd of February 1840.

The resulting sweeping landscapes are represented by an intricate graphic language built with hundreds of symbols which are overprinted to create an abstract landscape reminiscent of early typewriter or ASCII art.

The vinyls were printed and installed by Omni Colour and span over 700sq m across two floors of the building. Revealed as you move from space to space, the artworks are inspiring and intriguing, creating welcoming environments for the teams to think, learn and do business. 

Harry Pearce
Project team
Jane Kemp
Romilly Winter
Daren Howells
Tom Walker
Omni Colour (vinyls: print and installation)
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