If you’ve ever wondered how the world has changed in the 150 million years since the close of the Jurassic period, the answer is: not a lot. For its Henge installation at Wren Landing in Canary Wharf, architecture firm Stanton Williams has sourced 30 slabs of limestone from the Portuguese natural stone supplier LSI Stone that it reckons date back to the dinosaurs.
Partnering with structural engineers Webb Yates and designers experimentadesign, they’ve arranged the slabs in a standing circle reminiscent of the prehistoric gathering places that remain throughout the Celtic Sea lands, from Ireland via Britain to Brittany. It’s a sophisticated structure of deceptive simplicity that would have pushed a Jurassic-era worker to breaking point. The surprise of seeing the stones up close? They don’t seem at all removed from the blocks of stone you’d procure for a terraced-house kitchen countertop. Buffed to a silky smoothness, mottled with terrazzo-style imperfections, they are covetable in that aspirational middle-class London way.
However, this is not what Stanton Williams wants us to take away from its London Design Festival contribution.
In an especially well-trod corner of commercial London, the practice designed the 21st-century circle as a place to contemplate how far removed we’ve become spiritually and industrially, if not geologically, in the years since Stonehenge and its ilk. Henge is conceived not quite as a naughty step for pedestrians in Canary Wharf but as an opportunity to engage in questions of time, modernity and technology. At the very least, Stanton Williams has showcased the extra-longterm appeal of natural Jurassic stone: the gift the earth keeps on giving.