Pantone has declared 2018 the year of Ultra Violet. While some may be struggling to come to terms with the post-Christmas fallout of amethyst accessories, lilac linens or periwinkle pantsuits gifted by uber design-savvy relatives, we have chosen to embrace Pantone’s purple reign. It seems like a good year for Ultra Violet – most duly because 2018 is also the year of Crossrail, and with it the (very purple) Elizabeth line.
We are excited about Crossrail – most Londoners are. Not only is it going to open up the capital’s rail capacity by a notable 10 percent and stoke the fires of our ever-expanding metropolis, it is upholding its promise to take social, environmental and cultural impacts into great consideration. The engineering and architectural design teams behind every station on the Elizabeth line are made up of an impressive collection of world class designers including Hawkins Brown and RIBA-chartered Foster + Partners and Tony Meadows Associates. The Crossrail project is, in its way, a monument to modernity and has been engineered with a future-forward tenacity to be proud of. This has been shown in so many ways – from beneficially reusing all excavated materials to the cultural legacy being created as part of the Crossrail Art Programme.
As Europe’s largest infrastructure project, Crossrail’s legacy will be more than just the delivery of a world-class railway. Through a range of arts projects varying both in scale and nature, Crossrail has been working with both established and emerging artists, international and local, to create an ambitious and diverse art programme that reflects both the Crossrail railway and the city it will serve.
Each new station will have its own, distinct character that reflects the environment and heritage of the local area and most will include an integrated public art installation from a celebrated artist. It will culminate in a line-wide exhibition – the world’s longest art gallery perhaps – of custom art work sponsored by seven London-based art galleries, delivering the largest collaborative public art commission in a generation. At Tottenham Court Road (supported by Gagosian), Turner Prize winners Richard Wright and Douglas Gordon are developing distinct artworks for ticket halls at either end of the station. Internationally renowned Michal Rovner is developing digital art to represent the flow and movement of commuters at Canary Wharf (supported by PACE). British artist, Simon Periton’s locally-inspired artwork will adorn the panelled walls at Farringdon (supported by Sadie Coles HQ).
And then at Paddington (supported by Lisson Gallery) Spencer Finch’s hand-drawn cloudscape has been digitally printed – panel-by-panel – into the 120m-long glass canopy that will float high above the station. Finch’s aim is to create a picture of the sky in the tradition of English landscape paintings by artists like Constable and Turner, which will appear to change according to the light, the direction of the sun and the time of day. We were fortunate enough to get invited onsite as the panels were in the process of being dropped in. So off we went, to get kitted out in orange from helmet-to-boot, held up by scaffolding planks, and allowed to bump heads on the polished steel beams of what will eventually be an imposing, untouchable covering. Given the December climate, it was hardly surprising that the artist’s blue sky rendering didn’t entirely match up with the cloud effects we came across – but actually that’s part of it. The installation has been designed to be as capricious as the British weather. Thank goodness for that!
Up at canopy level, surrounded by cranes and sandwiched somehow so seamlessly between a beautiful listed building and a modern high-rise, it became a lot easier to comprehend the momentousness of Crossrail’s undertaking; the scale of its innovation, experimentation and cutting-edge technology. Grey skies aside, the mastery and pride with which Crossrail has executed their project has become an important tool in reinforcing London’s bright (maybe even Ultra Violet) past, present and future.