For many, St Paul’s Cathedral is an instantly recognisable iconic London landmark but how many of you are familiar with its interior? Now’s your chance to glimpse one of the internal spaces that’s rarely seen by the public as the British minimalist architect John Pawson has created an installation, sitting within the striking Geometric Staircase, to celebrate Sir Christopher Wren’s architecture. The piece allows a unique reading of the space through optical manipulation and is one of the must-sees at this year’s London Design Festival.
Pawson’s installation consists of a meniscus – in layman terms that’s a lens – sitting on a highly reflective hemisphere (like a pool of liquid mercury) at the foot of the spiral staircase. It took four months for Swarovski to manufacture the 400mm wide precision concave crystal lens, and is their largest to date. A spherical concave mirror hangs suspended 23m above the meniscus reflecting the view from the top of the stairs; together they offer a composite image and new perspective of the helix-like staircase. Looking down into the lens feels like experiencing Wren’s world in miniature – a snapshot of an escher-esque environment.
At the unveiling of the project last Thursday, Pawson described his intention to “edit the view” allowing the viewer to “see Wren’s work in a new way” and appreciate the architecture, which dates back to the 17th Century. Rather than needing to climb the vertiginous staircase, you can immediately experience the space from different angles as you enter at street level.
The cantilevered spiral staircase, providing access from the Dean’s entrance up to the library, is a genuine architectural marvel. Each stair tread rests minimally on the one below and although embedded into the wall, it creates the illusion that they are floating unsupported.
Characteristic of John Pawson’s work, the installation embraces the relationship between light, materials and proportion. The optical experience differs with the changing lighting conditions throughout the day. Pawson described how as the concave mirror was raised slowly into position it offered ever-shifting reflections.
Perspectives is the tenth creative collaboration between a designer and Swarovski, as part of their Crystal Palace project. Other design luminaries to have taken part include, Ron Arad, Zaha Hadid and Troika.
It will be open to the public until Jan 2012.
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