diamond geezer

 Sunday, March 15, 2015

Appearing in the Olympic Park from this week, a memorial to 9/11. It's been a long time getting here.

The artwork has been created by New York artist Miya Ando from steel columns retrieved from Ground Zero. It stands 8½m tall, and was commissioned by a UK-based educational charity to mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11. They hoped it would gain a permanent site in London, with Potters Field alongside City Hall the favoured choice. Instead it was put on show in Battersea Park for only a few weeks before being carted off to a farmyard in Cambridgeshire and left there to rust under a tarpaulin. Eighteen months ago there was a big hoohah in the press about its disappearance, so Boris said it should be given a place of honour in the Olympic Park. He'll be unveiling the sculpture for the second time on Tuesday, on a mound above a car park round the back of the Aquatics Centre. Until then it stands part-wrapped behind a double set of barriers, a little forlorn, hoping to be appreciated.

Not everybody likes the Since 9/11 sculpture - it's been described as "a pile of junk", "ugly" and "an eyesore". However there's no denying the evocative nature of the materials from which it was created, hence what it looks like matters less than its actual existence. Instead what's proven more controversial is that not everybody likes where the sculpture has been put. The charity had hoped for a more prominent location in the Olympic Park, somewhere that'd have some presence, somewhere visitors actually walk past. Instead there is a definite feeling that it's been placed out of the way, in a somewhat tumbleweed location by an underused road junction, overshadowed by its surroundings.

A crescent-shaped mound has been created running parallel to the nose of the Aquatics Centre, at the sharp end where the entrance isn't. The reason that the mound's so long is to accommodate wheelchair visitors without the need for a lift. One access path inclines sufficiently gently to allow a nine metre change in height, while the other from the steeper end has shallow steps instead. The grassy slopes on the car park side are planted thickly with silver birches, accompanied by a cluster of northern red oaks, the idea being to create a secluded atmosphere of contemplation at the summit. The trees will also eventually block sight of the neighbouring roads and apartment blocks, but with the counterbalance that the memorial will become increasingly hard to see from a distance. All the planning documents are here, if you're interested in digging a little deeper into the almost-enthusiasm behind the project.

If you're interesting in visiting, the easiest way is to catch the 339 or D8 bus which stop immediately alongside. Alternatively you can walk from Stratford station, either the ugly way via the bridge across the Overground, or by following one of the stepped pathways round the back of the Aquatics Centre. Alternatively you might see it from the train into Liverpool Street, sticking its gnarled steel fingers defiantly into the air. Or you could drive, obviously.

You'll definitely see the sculpture in the media on Tuesday, as Boris makes his speech and various news sites dutifully recycle the official press release. But if you don't see the phrase "car park" in their report, it's a fair bet the journalist in question never turned up.

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