If you’ve ever found climbing to the top of St Paul’s Geometric Staircase a little tiring, the new installation of a crystal designed by artist John Pawson and supported by Nadja Swarovski will let you save your breath
If you’ve ever found climbing to the top of St Paul’s Geometric Staircase a little tiring, the new installation of a crystal designed by artist John Pawson and supported by Nadja Swarovski will let you save your breath.
The lens, constructed from crystal by Swarovski, is placed on top of a drum with a mirrored surface in the staircase’s well, and high above it is a two-metre convex mirror hanging off a steel cable at the top of the dome. By looking into the lens, you can see the very top of the staircase.
One of the problems with the installation, Pawson explained, was that the tower itself is not perpendicular to the ground, thus it took a laser beam to align the lens and the mirror. Praising the precision engineering of the manufacturers at Swarovski, Pawson joked that the tower was the only part of the installation that had proved not to be ‘absolutely precise’.
The purpose behind Perspectives, said Pawson, was not to put something in the tower that would distract attention from it, but rather to allow people to see what is already there in a new way. Peering into the lens – which took four months to make because of the cooling-off period it required – gives a strange sensation of looking up and down at the same time. This is aesthetically pleasing as well as convenient; after just a few seconds of staring up into the dome, your neck knows about it.
Perspectives is sponsored and commissioned by Swarovski Crystal Palace, a design project created to explore the possibilities of lighting and design purely through the medium of crystal. Previous designers include Zaha Hadid, Ron Arad, Tom Dixon and Arik Levy.
Nadja Swarovski said she’d been ‘pursuing John for years’. The reasons for her choice of artist? Pawson not only ‘broke the boundaries of what can be done with crystal’, she said, ‘but he also looks like Robert Redford.’ Those present for whom this was a good thing must have been delighted to see not just one Pawson in the Geometric Staircase, but dozens of reflections of the artist bouncing off the various reflective surfaces.
Perspectives is open for public viewing as part of the London Design Week, which runs from Monday 19 until Friday 23 September
Photographs by Gilbert McCarragher