A meditative approach to architectural geometry

By Tom Howells

To mark the third centenary of Christopher Wren’s death, LDF and Bloomberg Philanthropies have commissioned two Landmark Projects within two of his most esteemed buildings. These form part of the celebrations for Wren300 – a year- long cultural programme of events that seeks to refract the architect’s legacy through a hyper-contemporary prism. Here, we find out how Moritz Waldemeyer pays tribute to Wren’s legacy.

‘Halo’ sees a conical pendulum hung above and circling the altar within Wren’s beatific church of St Stephen Walbrook, near Cannon Street in the City of London. The church’s blocky exterior belies one of the architect’s most alluring interior designs: “When stepping into St Stephen for the first time it was instantly apparent that the architecture is dominated by strict geometry and perfect proportions,” explains Waldemeyer. “So the ideas were driven by the idea to play with geometry in the space.”

The highest point of the dome lies directly above the cylindrical, travertine marble altar, designed by Henry Moore. As a means of creating an ancillary sense of calm in this already tranquil locale, Waldemeyer utilised this distance by hanging his pendulum with a particularly long cord – whereby it gyrates like a celestial body, “creating a very slow movement and allowing visitors to mentally slow down and disconnect from the high speed of daily life”.

“The elements of pendulum and the projection are connected to the cosmic realm, inviting visitors to contemplate and meditate.”

Above the pendulum, a lightwork inspired by natural phenomena such as the Sun’s corona and the aurora borealis is projected into the concave dome, mimicking the motion of the pendulum and helping slow down the perception of space and time. Finally, the titular halo – a recurring motif in Christian art – presents itself more imperceptibly, appearing only when the piece is documented with long-exposure photography; a single rotation of the pendulum, around nine seconds, revealing a gleaming gloriole otherwise unbeknown to the casual observer.

The work, explains Waldemeyer, was inspired by the tenets of Renaissance art, “driven by universal curiosity of the world, arts and sciences and the artistic expression of this curiosity”. Fundamentally, the installation seeks to both calm and, given its non-secular setting, unite – allowing visitors to momentarily escape the frenetic realities of their daily lives and the bustling city outside.

“Both elements, the pendulum and the projection, are connected to the cosmic realm, inviting visitors to contemplate and meditate,” concludes Waldemeyer. “Hopefully attracting a new set of visitors to discover the church as a natural spiritual location, independent from their religious background.”