Page C2.1 . 14 November 2001                     
ArchitectureWeek - Culture Department
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Postcard from London

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The Monument by Rachael Whiteread, at Trafalgar Square in London. Photos: Kevin Matthews

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The Monument in context.

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The Monument.

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Classic Trafalgar Square.


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Dear ArchitectureWeek,

After arriving late and waking to a sturdy bite in the great domed breakfast room at the Charing Cross Hotel, I met up with Don in the hotel lobby and we stepped around the corner to Trafalgar Square.

Mobbed with birds, visitors, and history, the square stands up to anticipation. Unlike much of the recent public art I've seen around the States, which I've found predominantly safe, largely overworked, and generally unchallenging.

What more delight then to encounter "The Monument." This sculpture is a cheerfully deadpan, proportionally serious, optically inflected object cast in clear resin that stands the classic pedestal on its head — literally.

Created by Rachael Whiteread and occupying the fourth plinth at Trafalgar Square, The Monument is an 8 meter (26 foot) tall water-clear cast resin replica of the stern granite plinth on which it stands.

Don tells me the plinth itself was built in 1841, and was originally intended as the site for a figure of William IV. Owing to lack of funds that sculpture was not realized. Agreement could not subsequently be reached as to which hero or monarch should be depicted and the plinth therefore remained empty for 158 years.

Since the June 4th unveiling, however, the plinth has been fully occupied with its own whimsical reflective twin. To me the sculpture expresses a lighthearted gravity, a sincere and accurate while gently amused appreciation in modern material of the refined gravitas of the plinth, square, and formal City.

On the road in London,

Kevin Matthews with Don Barker

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