In 1958 Barbara Hepworth was commissioned to create Meridian for the entrance of State House in Holborn. The United Real Property Trust, Maurice Wohl's company, had recently completed this vast office building. The commission came about through Lilian Somerville of the British Council, who said of it, 'for once these architects do not want symbolism or a subject or a theme but an abstract sculpture' (see M. Gale and C. Stephens, Barbara Hepworth, London, 1999, p. 182). In an interview at the time, Hepworth said, 'With this commission I felt no hesitation whatsoever. By next morning I saw the sculpture in my mind quite clearly. I made my first maquette, and from this, began the armature for the working model. The architect must create a valid space for sculpture so that it becomes organically part of our spiritual perception as well as our three dimensional life. To do less is to destroy sculpture and admit to an impoverished architecture' (see P. Curtis and A.G. Wilkinson, exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth A Retrospective, Liverpool, Tate Gallery, 1994, pp. 154-5).
Hepworth explained her choice of title to the architect of State House, Harold Mortimer: 'it refers either to an imaginary arc of longitude (quintessentially, the Greenwich Meridian) or to the highest point in the arc of the sun' (M. Gale and C. Stephens, loc. cit.). A few years earlier Ben Nicholson painted a work called 1953, August 11 (meridian) (private collection). When speaking to Nicholson about Meridian in 1958, Hepworth told him that 'the big job for Holborn is a fantastic experience which I would not have missed, tho' the bigger the sculpture the less money one makes, but it is going so much slower than I anticipated' (P. Curtis and A.G. Wilkinson, loc. cit). By January 1960 Hepworth had completed the commission and, on her suggestion, Harold Mortimer had the wall heightened to accommodate the piece, 'to make Meridian look perfect' (in a letter from Hepworth to Gimpel Fils, 20 January 1960, see P. Curtis and A.G. Wilkinson, loc. cit.). Meridian was unveiled at State House by Sir Philip Hendy, the then Director of the National Gallery, in March 1960.