- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 27 Sep 2019
Art in the built environment
Although the built environment can encompass both internal and external spaces, the term art in the built environment tends to be used for instances of art that are installed externally to enhance public spaces. These spaces may include town centres, squares, shopping precincts, streets, riversides, parkland and indeed anywhere the public are free to use and experience space.
The main instances of painting in the built environment are murals, usually on a large scale, applied to walls, buildings, bridges and so on. An otherwise drab, end-of-terrace brick house, for example, may offer a prime opportunity for a mural due to its size and its conspicuous location.
For more information see: Mural
|House mural, Glenelg Road, Brixton.|
This can include free-standing artworks in town centres, shopping malls and parks, but can also include sculptures attached to buildings, such as Barbara Hepworth’s on the John Lewis department store in London. It is probably the oldest form of art in the built environment and was in the past associated as much with the creation of monuments and public education as it was with beauty.
|Anthony Gormley's Quantum Cloud on the Greenwich Peninsula.|
Streets, squares and other public thoroughfares can be designed to achieve an artistic effect that is both aesthetic and functional. Landscaping schemes may sometimes be associated with pedestrianisation that can include multi-coloured block paving, planting, seating, as well as other elements of public art. The aim is often to enhance user experience of public space but equally to entice shoppers into an area.
The fountain is one of the oldest tools for enhancing public space, whether that is to provide a source of drinking water or for adornment. Fountains remain an important and much-used element, particularly in warm climates.
Although graffiti is not always regarded as ‘art’, and some graffiti can be very unsightly, there are nevertheless talented graffiti artists whose multi-coloured works can enhance otherwise drab public spaces. Usually applied by spray paint, the works are frequently at height and may carry a social comment.
Trompe l’oeil is a technique that creates the illusion of reality. It is French for ‘fool the eye’ or ‘deceive the eye’. It has long been used by artists for paintings and murals, but can also be found in architecture where walls, ceilings, domes and other surfaces are painted with designs that ‘trick’ the observer into seeing other features such as windows, columns, stonework, ornaments and so on.
For more information see: Trompe l’oeil.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Art Deco.
- Art Moderne.
- Art Nouveau.
- Arts and craft movement.
- Beaux Arts style.
- Coal holes, pavement lights, kerbs and utilities and wood-block paving.
- Conservation, climbing and graffiti.
- Floorscape in art and design.
- Julian Opie Art Wall CitizenM Tower of London Hotel
- Nuclear Dawn mural, Brixton.
- Trompe l’oeil.
Featured articles and news
The Architects Registration Board.
How BSRIA monitored the performance of new homes.
How to research a building when there are no primary sources.
A re-thatching project has supported a critically endangered skill.
What inspired the Metabolist movement in architecture?
A radical transformation of three agricultural barns.
How to evict a tenant
The top 10 priorities for health and wellbeing.
Why some clients make BREEAM a contractual requirement.
Raising the roof in Southwark.
The difference between consultant switch and novation.