John Pawson celebrates St Paul’s 300th anniversary

St Pauls

British minimalist designer John Pawson has unveiled an installation, for Swarovski Crystal Palace in St Paul’s Cathedral, marking the 300th anniversary of Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece.

‘Perspectives’, was launched in the Geometric Staircase of the cathedral during London Design Festival (September 17-25), and will be 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 an optical experience.


At the foot of Wren’s staircase is a concave Swarovski crystal meniscus on a larger reflective hemisphere, with a spherical convex mirror suspended 23m above in the tower’s cupola.

Together, these optical elements create a composite image of the view up through the tower for visitors gathered round the hemisphere at the base.

“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,” said Pawson.

“The cathedral is an immensely complex work of architecture and the temptation when you visit it 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 designers to develop work using the medium of crystal.

In the past 10 years, it has collaborated with designers including; Ron Arad, Zaha Hadid, Tom Dixon, Ross Lovegrove, Tord Boontje, Arik Levy and Yves Behar.

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