Opinion by Richard Baird Posted 27 January 2015
Ten Trinity Square is a super prime real estate project developed by the Chinese conglomerate Reignwood Group. It is made up of a private members club, residencies and a Four Seasons hotel, all set within the Port of London Authority building which is located at the centre of the city near the Tower of London and with views of the Thames. The building was designed by Sir Edwin Cooper in a neoclassical style, built by John Mowlen & Co, and opened in 1922 by British Prime Minister of the time David Lloyd George.
In the words of Reignwood Group’s Chairman Dr Chanchai Ruayrungruang, ‘Ten Trinity Square is one of London’s true landmark buildings, re-created as an exclusive and harmonious arrangement of residences, hotel and club, in a vision that links, explores and expresses the cultures and achievements of peoples all around the world.’
As part of a reinvigoration program – one designed to recognise and reinforce the building’s historic status, architectural merit and redefined purpose – Pentagram, led by partner John Rushworth, developed a strategy and visual identity treatment that include logo, print and interior design, that would contribute to the overall revitalisation of Ten Trinity Square.
Drawing on the significant history of the site, acknowledged as being one at the centre of international relations – important to the Romans, medieval merchants and, later on, the East India Company – John Rushworth’s strategy looked to help establish a new reputation for the building that was harmonious with its history, contemporary life and conveyed its distinctive and unique offering as a real estate proposition within the area.
This intention was realised as a new members club, described as being able to offer a platform for business leaders from Europe and Asia to meet, whilst providing the highest quality lifestyle services, and as a new visual identity system delivered across the interior, signage, floor plan and marketing book for private residencies.
The visual identity is described as being guided by two oppositional attitudes, power and understatement – ascribed to the character of elite membership, and as an expression of Eastern and Western collaboration, whilst also referring to the property’s Trinity Square location. This manifests itself as a logo of two overlapping circles intersected by a triangle.
Within the context of the building and more communicative assets such as the marketing book, it is a small detail but helps sets a tone. Its simple forms, good use of space and heavy monolinear qualities have a timelessness that also leverages, to some degree – whether intentional or not – an element of pagan iconography. It is close to something like the The Eye of Providence, distant, over-reaching and ominous in its abstraction, with a bit of an illuminati/mason thing going on. You could imagine it embroidered onto the uniforms of a Bond villain’s henchmen, carved into the cover of some ancient text or the symbolic embodiment of a new age philosophy, all of which works in its favour.
This also radiates outwards from the plinths modelled on the neoclassical exterior columns of the building with marble surfaces, oversized books, two huge illuminated world maps (east and west) and the model at the centre of the lobby. To an outsider the statement feels grandiose, almost like a control room over seeing the world, a fusion of classical and contemporary aesthetics – think Ozymandias’ high-tech Eygption temple mash-up at the end of Watchmen – but which fits comfortably within the structure and its significant and imperial history, and reflects the reach of those working in big business and who can afford to have a residency.
Other details such as gold foil print finish across black, and good quality material textures fall into the familiar but clear luxury category, while the use of red – core colours of both London and China – offer subtext, much like the symbol, introducing a hidden but meaningful rationale to its choice. The cord of the bags, while probably not intentional, evoke the feeling of those red barriers at exclusive clubs but also, and perhaps I am reaching a touch, of desire, think dark arts and vampires. This also continues through the use of dark inks and foils across dark substrates.
Type choice is appropriately drawn from the lettering carved into the front of the building, tying the identity firmly to the building and its history and offering a finer and more detailed aesthetic, as well as communicative contrast to symbol. This is executed consistently in print. Online, Pentagram has favoured Joanna MT Std that, although not as fine as that of the print work, reproduces well on screen with a similar sentiment.
The stationery is straightforward in its layout and use of the logo. It is comfortable in its use of convention, and while it is perhaps a shame to see little in the way of paper detail and surface texture, it is clear that the time and effort was put into the more communicative and experiential aspect of the identity such as the book and lobby, rather than the basic utility of envelopes and headed paper.
The residency marketing book is a smart and well laid out guide with a good use of space, type and image. It has the qualities of an art museum catalogue, documenting the history of the site and of the building, mixes political, architectural and artistic detail but is also serves as a reminder of the growing and modern nature of the city of London through skyline. It is very much about buying into history and culture of the area as it is about the tangible luxuries and services of the residency and hotel, which is what I would presume would be of interest to those who can access any number of properties on the global market.
The project is clearly broad reaching, extending far beyond just a set of visual identity assets into strategy and experience. As an outsider looking in on a world of influence and wealth it is difficult to asses or grasp the effectiveness of such approach, however, there are some solid and universal conventions leveraged and a restraint in the visual identity that gives it an intentional and interesting ambiguity. With regards to the symbol, there are many things that could be draw from it, and a lot of this will be instinctual and based on earlier relationships with similar forms and a variety of reference points, in my case this is popular culture. For a wealthy business person that may well be very different but resonate equally as well.