Nottingham Contemporary Neon

I was commissioned to design a work for Nottingham Contemporary which would act, both, as a logo and a permanent neon artwork for the exterior of the building. Based on ‘Googie’ architecture (the name given to classic US West Coast, bar/diner/bowling alley architecture), the sign/logo comes loaded with a particular cultural reference of the laid back US West Coast attitude. In particular, I am interested in this style in a historical context, Googie architecture being the architecture of aspiration; really coming in to its own in a post war, 50s America, at a time when people were equally looking to the future as much as they were turning their backs on the past. It is also an under-dog architecture; much loved but professionally and academically snubbed. Most of the best examples of Googie architecture no-longer exist as they were never seen as ‘important’ buildings worth saving by the powers that be.

I was interested in the role of this work as a functioning sign for the building, but also as an artwork in its own right. Developed alongside Caruso St John Architects, the sign was very much a contradiction to that, a contradiction embraced and supported by the architects to exist alongside their vision.

From a contextual point of view, I was interested in how the history of the aesthetic I was referencing seemed relevant to a new-build art gallery; Googie architecture being forward thinking in itself but, almost exclusively, a space where people worked and socialised – a place for exchange. This was an architecture that was turning its back on the past and stepping boldly and unapologetically in to the future. All of this seemed relevant to the the aspirations for a new art gallery, their programme and their potential audience.

Visit the Nottingham Contemporary website HERE