This square was designed to front the new headquarters of Commercial Union and the main London office of P&O when it was created in the 1970s. The open space was not part of the original plans, but came about as a result of access and planning issues that made it impossible for either company to optimise the amount of floor space they desired across the site. As a compromise, the two companies decided to participate in a joint development of an open concourse area at the junction of Leadenhall Street and St Mary Axe, onto which both would have front entrances. St Helen’s Square (named after the nearby 15th-century church of St Helen’s Bishopsgate) became a key public piazza. It is the third largest open space in the City of London and offers a welcome place for workers from surrounding offices to enjoy al fresco lunches. In 2016, permission was granted for a new 73-storey skyscraper to replace the Commercial Union building (now called St Helen’s), though a date for demolition has not yet been confirmed.
At the base of the Leadenhall building, an outline of the city skyline runs the length of a wall like a waveform. Curious to hear what that waveform would actually sound like, I carefully recreated the skyline in an audio editor and loaded it into a synthesizer to be used as an oscillator. The first notes you hear 50 seconds into the track are made using that waveform, forming the melodic core of the track.
Sitting in St. Helen's square looking up at the Leadenhall, you immediately notice the building is dominated by a repeating jagged triangular motif. It just so happens this shape is one of the fundamental building blocks of synthesis — a sawtooth wave. The arpeggio that appears halfway through the track uses sawtooth waves exclusively, weaving a complex, jagged skin over the core of the track like the steel beams of the buildings.
Nearly all the other sounds your hear were recorded over the course of a breezy summer afternoon in St Helen's square, truck horns, cafe trolleys shunting around, people enjoying a game of ping pong, setting up deckchairs, and the distant sound of construction, industry and bustle.