Perspectives by John Pawson
at St Paul's Cathedral

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Perspectives by John Pawson at St Paul's Cathedral

London Design Festival 2011: British architect John Pawson has installed the largest lens ever made by crystal brand Swarovski in the southwest tower of St Paul's Cathedral for the London Design Festival, which starts on Saturday.

Perspectives by John Pawson at St Paul's Cathedral

Called Perspectives, the installation comprises a spherical mirror suspended at the top of the 23-metre tower, mirrored in a hemisphere below the lens at the foot of the staircase to create a composite image of the whole tower for visitors gathered at ground level.

Perspectives by John Pawson at St Paul's Cathedral

The spiralling Geometric Staircase connects the Dean's door to the upper levels of the cathedral and is normally closed to the public.

Perspectives by John Pawson at St Paul's Cathedral

Pawson's installation marks the 300th anniversary of the cathedral's completion and remains open to the public until January 2012.

Perspectives by John Pawson at St Paul's Cathedral

See all our stories about the London Design Festival in our special category.

Perspectives by John Pawson at St Paul's Cathedral

Photographs are by Gilbert McCarragher.

The information below is from Swarovski Crystal Palace:


John Pawson installs Perspectives, a new work for Swarovski Crystal Palace, in partnership with the London Design Festival, within St Paul’s Cathedral, marking the 300th anniversary of the completion of Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece.

The UK’s leading minimalist, John Pawson, and Swarovski Crystal Palace have created a spectacular installation in the Geometric Staircase of St Paul’s Cathedral to reveal a new perspective of this architectural masterpiece and the genius of Sir Christopher Wren.

Entitled ‘Perspectives’, this experiential work will be unveiled during the London Design Festival, 17th to 25th September, and will remain open to the public until January 2012.

Reflecting Wren’s desire that his buildings should incorporate scientific elements, ‘Perspectives’ uses the largest Swarovski lens ever manufactured to create a dramatic optical experience which depends on scientific subtlety, material simplicity and a complex combination of light, space and proportion to reflect an environment rich in history and beauty.

At the foot of Wren’s elegant spiralling Geometric Staircase a concave Swarovski crystal meniscus will sit on a much larger reflective hemisphere, with a spherical convex mirror suspended 23m above in the tower’s cupola. Together, these optical elements will create an extraordinary composite image of the view up through the tower for visitors gathered round the hemisphere at the base, allowing them, as Pawson says, “to see beyond the level of the naked eye” and gain a perspective never before seen of one of Britain’s most iconic buildings.

John Pawson explains: “St Paul’s is one of the most recognisable buildings in the country. Inevitably it’s the grand architectural moves which everyone knows – the west elevation, the nave and the dome. In collaboration with Swarovski, I have been given the chance to turn the focus on a less familiar element - the Geometric Staircase - which is a detail, but also a complete architectural moment in its own right. The cathedral is an immensely complex work of architecture and the temptation when you visit is to try to take in everything. This is about offering a spatial experience based around a single, sharply honed perspective. The form this experience takes is shaped by Wren’s own interest in creating scientific instruments out of buildings.”

For Swarovski, the collaboration marks a high point of its Crystal Palace project, an experimental design platform developed by Nadja Swarovski which allows world class designers to develop extraordinary work using the medium of crystal. In the past ten years, collaborations with the likes of Ron Arad, Zaha Hadid, Tom Dixon, Ross Lovegrove, Tord Boontje, Arik Levy and Yves Behar have resulted in a spectacular body of work which provides a snapshot of the most exciting and creative minds of the 21st century.

Nadja Swarovski, Member of the Executive Board, Swarovski, commented: “It has been an inspirational and rewarding experience to work with John Pawson on such an illuminating project. A true visionary like Wren, John continuously pushes the boundaries of traditional architecture. His new and innovative use of crystal within this modest but magical design reflects Swarovski Crystal Palace’s mission continually to evolve and to contribute to culture and design.”

The work is a fitting climax to a year of tercentennial celebrations for St Paul’s, which was declared complete by Parliament exactly 300 years ago. The Reverend Canon Mark Oakley, Treasurer of St Paul’s Cathedral, said: “John Pawson invites us in this installation to observe the Geometric Staircase of the cathedral with a deepened focus. Like the spiritual life itself, here we are invited to look within in order to see out with greater clarity and wonder. We are delighted that Swarovski and the London Design Festival bring this meditative meniscus into St Paul’s to enrich our understanding of Wren’s work and to alert us to the fact that transformations often occur when we become more visually literate.”

Now in its ninth year, the London Design Festival is established as the preeminent creative festival in the world. This year’s Festival will be the largest and most significant yet, with an expected 180 partners and almost 300 events celebrating the world’s creative capital and offering a range of projects across the city from St Paul’s Cathedral to the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Ben Evans, Director of the London Design Festival said: “The London Design Festival works in the greatest quality spaces London has to offer and you can’t get greater than St Paul’s Cathedral. The installation we have there by John Pawson complements and contrasts with the stunningly beautiful space that we’re using. It’s very special – unmissable from my point of view.”

Swarovski will also sponsor the fifth presentation of the London Design Medal Dinner, which will be held on Monday 19th September in the Crypt of St Paul’s. Previous winners of the medal include Zaha Hadid (2007), Marc Newson (2008), Sir Paul Smith (2009), and Thomas Heatherwick (2010).

Visiting hours during London Design Festival

Monday 19th September – Friday 23rd September, 10am- 6pm, visitors will be able to access ‘Perspectives’ through the Dean’s Door .This entrance is in the South Churchyard of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Visiting hours after the London Design Festival

Saturday 24th September – mid January 2012 (closed Sundays) regular guided access throughout the day will be available to visitors during sightseeing hours. Requests outside these hours by prior arrangement only.

  • http://www.paperform.com.au Paperform

    Sexy stuff!

  • rob

    it's very very something, a very special optical device that creates something similar to just looking up. and they hired Pawson to do the trick. just very awesome. very.

  • fmf

    well done Mark.

  • fRancis

    that exists in Toulouse France, in Cathedral des Jacobins, since quite many years…its not Swarowski offcource (duh) but a simple mirror and it does the same job
    http://www.jacobins.mairie-toulouse.fr/patrhist/p