Somerset House, London
The London Design Biennale 2021 will take place in the historic grounds of Somerset House. Inspired by this prestigious venue, we chose to delve into Somerset House’s own history. What we discovered resulted in our decision to make Amplify, a site-specific concept.
In 1603 Anne of Denmark, wife of James I of England, moved to Somerset House, and it was renamed Denmark House in her honour. Once in England, she threw her energy into patronage of the arts, creating a cultural salon that attracted leading painters, writers and thinkers. In 1609, she invited Inigo Jones and other architects, to redesign and rebuild parts of the palace. The work continued until her death in 1619. She was said to be an assertive, independent and dynamic patron of the arts who constructed a magnificent court.
As two black African women, operating within the male-dominated worlds of architecture and design, and continuing the tradition of African female craftsmanship and design, we recognised Anne of Denmark's power and determination to centre the arts at Somerset House. The legacy of which, still exists there today.
Anne of Denmark's focus on nurturing the arts, at Somerset House, existed in a thriving socio-cultural European economy, within an equitable environment with British counterparts. The foray of the Danes into the new world, as they explored Africa, was far from equitable.