Sto helps brings vibrant artwork to life on prominent re-development in Leeds

What is believed to be the UK’s tallest piece of street art has been created on a Leeds office development, with help from an external wall insulation system supplied by Sto Ltd. The 137ft high mural is entitled ‘Athena Rising’ and has been created on the side of the Platform building in Leeds, which has been clad with StoTherm Vario external wall insulation and finished with StoColor X-black facade paint.

The ambitious and bold artwork depicts an owl in flight alongside a moon and a crown, and has been created by artists Cbloxx and AYLO, also known as Joy Gilleard and Hayley Garner, from the Nomad Clan muralists collective. Taking four weeks to complete, ‘Athena Rising’ covers the east elevation of the building, and it saw Joy and Hayley working from a suspended cradle, hand-painting the artwork using emulsion and spray paint.

Sto’s Account Manager, Jim Allan comments,

“This project is an excellent example of the way that Sto can provide a fully integrated solution for an unusual project such as this, StoTherm Vario is a high performance and cost-effective insulation system which features a mineralic reinforcing coat which is designed to meet stringent fire safety requirements. It provides excellent thermal performance and protects the external wall from weathering. No additional expansion joints are required and this was an important feature for the Platform building, as it gave Joy and Hayley a smooth canvas on which to work.”

Simon Hill of Heywood-based specialists Met-Excel, who completed the installation work adds,

“Equally critical to this project was the StoColor X-black paint that was used to create the final exterior finish. An external render was applied over the StoTherm Vario insulation, and a dark colour finish was required, onto which the artwork could be applied. This would have been extremely difficult to achieve using conventional alternatives, as we had to ensure that the final surface would remain stable so that the artwork can be enjoyed for many years to come.”

Dark finishes on render applied over external wall insulation have traditionally suffered from heat build-up due to solar gain. This can subject the render and insulation to temperatures of up to 80°C, which causes dimensional instability, cracking and damage to the insulation. However, the StoColor X-black paint uses special near-infrared black pigments that cause much of the solar energy in the invisible near-infrared spectrum to be reflected. Despite the render surface being dark in colour, it stays considerably cooler, protecting both the render itself and the insulation material beneath it from the extremes of thermal stress.

The Nomad Clan’s work is part of the city-wide street art project in Leeds, called ‘A City Less Grey’. Joy and Hayley are experienced giant muralists, having painted some of the largest artworks in the North of England, and they have been called ‘one of street art’s finest female duos.’

Craig Burrow of the building’s owner, Bruntwood adds,

“We’re very excited to be part of this project and pleased that Platform can provide the canvas for this mural. Bruntwood firmly believes that the strength of our cities is directly impacted by social and cultural vibrancy, so it’s great to see city-wide projects like ‘A City Less Grey’ bringing organisations from across the region together to create powerful art.”