History in Structure

Fountain in Courtyard of Shell Centre

A Grade II Listed Building in Lambeth, London

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Latitude: 51.5041 / 51°30'14"N

Longitude: -0.1163 / 0°6'58"W

OS Eastings: 530837

OS Northings: 180028

OS Grid: TQ308800

Mapcode National: GBR LH.10

Mapcode Global: VHGQZ.XGWB

Plus Code: 9C3XGV3M+JF

Entry Name: Fountain in Courtyard of Shell Centre

Listing Date: 9 December 1999

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1379937

English Heritage Legacy ID: 479385

ID on this website: 101379937

Location: City of Westminster, Lambeth, London, SE1

County: London

District: Lambeth

Electoral Ward/Division: Bishop's

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Lambeth

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Waterloo St John with St Andrew

Church of England Diocese: Southwark

Tagged with: Fountain

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(East, off)
Fountain in Courtyard
Of Shell Centre

- II

Public fountain. 1959-63 by Franta Belsky. Bronze, cast from clay and plaster moulds in 104 sections, and driven by two four-horsepower pumps. When in full operation 2,000 gallons can be driven through the channels and piping that vein its spiralling shell forms. The total weight is fifteen tons. Belsky wrote: `I saw that what was required here was a focal point in the intersection of certain vistas; that the object would need to be primarily a vertical construction, and of a sufficiently substantial size to possess some presence of its own in an architectural complex of considerable magnitude. I also realized that it would need to be something of a "folly"; that is to say, something showing distinctly and recognizably man-made; something showing the marks of finger-nails, and the grip of the human hand. In fact, a statement of the human touch that could act as a foil to the cold logic of the building itself. Since this would be mathematically severe, the fountain would need to provide a quality of contrast. Man as a foil for the machine. The structure would need to provide a relief for the eye - and the soul.' He explained to `The Studio' that the sculpture had to be appreciated from the upper windows of the building as well as from the ground, and that he took as his theme variations of the shell, as eroded by sand and sea. `I thought of whirlpools and stagnant pools, of rivulets and brooks; of streams and eddies. I began by looking at shells - and listening to Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D. This magnificent composition played a vital part in the creation of the fountain. I realized gradually that what I wanted to do was to evolve a sculptural counterpart for the form of Bach's music. A fugue and variations on one theme - that of the shell.'

Franta Belsky was born in Brno in 1921 and trained in Prague, and at the Central School of Arts and Crafts and Royal College of Art in London. He achieved a reputation for public sculpture with a pair of `mother and child' studies: `Lesson' for the London County Council and sited in Bethnal Green, and `Joy Ride' for Stevenage Development Corporation - which is also listed. This one fountain followed, commissioned by the Shell Petroleum Company after Belsky had approached the architect of the Shell Centre, Howard Robertson. Belsky was given complete freedom over the design and its placing on the South Bank. This is among his most complex and abstracted works.

The Studio, June 1963
Franta Belsky sculpture, Prague, Richter and London, Zwemmer, 1992
Information from the sculptor.

Listing NGR: TQ3083780028

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