View from the street of two mosaic panels showing an artistic reflection of a public park and buildings opposite.
On Reflection (2003) by Paul J Marks is under threat from the redevelopment of 16 Whitfield Street. Photo: Fitzrovia News.

An important piece of public art specially commissioned for a police station in Fitzrovia is under threat from a real estate company which plans to redevelop a site on Whitfield Street and Tottenham Court Road.

Two mosaic panels created by artist Paul J Marks adorn the ground floor elevation of the former British Transport Police station in Whitfield Street.

Entitled, On Reflection, they are made of 40,000 hand-cut vitrified ceramic triangles assembled together to create what looks looks like a piece of abstract art but is actually an impressionistic reflection of the public park and buildings opposite.

“I wanted to create a work that engages people,” explained Marks in 2003.

“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.

This unique artwork is now highly regarded and helps to create a sense of place between the park the former police station, but it now faces demolition by a developer — who is ignorant of its significance and its value — to install a floor-to-ceiling transparent glass frontage.

Plans to redevelop the site were announced this month in a letter sent to local residents seeking comments via the project website on the “vision book” for the site.

Global Holdings Management Group is an international alliance of real estate asset management and investment advisory companies, with extensive experience at developing in Camden,” states the letter.

They are being advised by Gerald Eve and Hale Brown Architects, states the project website.

Global recently acquired the site with planning permission to convert the former British Transport Police station to offices.

However, that planning application included a commitment to retain the mosaics.

“The attractive mural which exists on the southern portion of the frontage and which we believe was installed in about 2003 will be maintained,” stated the previous owners in January 2022.

A second planning application — now referred to as “Scheme B” — to extend the building also promised to maintain the mural.

But both those permissions for redevelopment are now being looked at again by the new owners.

“Global Holdings believes they can do a better job than the ‘Scheme B’, as proposed by the previous owners,” states the project website.

Nowhere in their proposal is there any reference to the murals except to refer to them as “solid elements” that will be replaced with “glazing to increase transparency and activation”.

Their proposals also include alterations to the Tottenham Court Road frontage where a branch of Marks & Spencer’s food store is located, extending the building upwards, and creating roof terraces.

The letter to local residents has been sent on behalf of Global by Kanda Consulting who boast they have a “wealth of experience in political decision making, planning policy, community engagement, urban design, regeneration, social and economic development and visual communications”.

The site at 16 Whitfield Street is in the London Borough of Camden’s Bloomsbury ward.

One of the three local councillors representing the ward is the cabinet member for young people and culture, Councillor Sabrina Francis. According to the “register of interests” she is employed by Kanda Consulting as a digital engagement manager.

Fitzrovia News is not suggesting the cabinet member and local councillor has any direct involvement in this project.

Kanda are seeking feedback on the proposals, on behalf of Global, before Monday 24 July 2023. Global will then submit a planning application to Camden Council outlining their detailed proposals.

Update 8 August 2023: The consultation website has been updated with modified designs and proposals for relocating the two mosaic panels. See consultation website and letter about relocation of murals below.

Consultation website for Global Holdings’ proposals for the redevelopment of 16 Whitfield Street and 55 Tottenham Court Road.