In 2013 London Underground celebrated the tube’s 150th anniversary. The British artist Mark Wallinger, who won the Turner Prize in 2007, was commissioned to create 270 artworks for all tube stations. Each of the artworks, a distinct labyrinth, will be placed in one of the 270 tube stations that make up the underground network. They will stay in place permanently.
On occasion of a short excursion to London I was able to see some of them.
The first labyrinth which I saw was in the airport terminal 2 at Heathrow. It is the next-to-last in the collection and numbered 269/270 at the bottom of the right-hand corner.
Some remarks on the numbering:
The numbers refer to the order of the Tube Challenge, the Guinness World Record for passing through every tube station in the fastest possible time, which currently stands at 16 hours and something minutes. Number 1/270 is at Chesham, where the Tube Challenge normally starts, and the last one is at Heathrow Terminal 5 (270/270), where it normally ends. Chesham is the furthest northwest point of London and Heathrow the furthest southwest.
As our hotel was situated in the north-east of London, we had to go to Gants Hill where we found the labyrinth 150/270.
It wasn´t our ambitionat all to visit every station or as many as possible. The weather was too nice to do so. While travelling to London’s centre for example we found the labyrinth Monument 96/270.
It was the same with the labyrinth Stepney Green 91/270.
And this one (Tower Hill 95/270), as well as some others, we only saw vaguely through the windows.
On the side I even discovered a meander on the London overground, at a most famous place:
Luckily there is a book about all the labyrinths on the underground. Thus nobody has to go to London to see them all. Likewise my knowledge about the art project is taken from this book:
It contains interesting details about the tube, thoughts of Mark Wallinger concerning the project and above all the descriptions of every station with photos of all labyrinths.
The inside front and back covers depict the graphics of all labyrinths. They are listed in 7 rows with 7 columns, that makes 49 pieces on each page. The second and the second last inside are also printed at the back which equals a total of 6 times 49 “small pictures” = 294 pieces. Because there are only 270 labyrinths, however, 24 pieces are represented twice.
The labyrinths are split in 11 design families defined by Mark Wallinger. This is a division rather made under formative points of view. One group is called “Cretan”. Thus only four historically known labyrinths of this type with 3, 7, 11 and 15 circuits are represented.
The classification of the remaining groups does not make sense to me completely. In particular the ones “Medieval” and “Native American” do not fit properly if one has dealt with these types a little .
All the remaining 266 labyrinths are new drafts, quite unknown up to now. There are some with several axes and many with “barriers” and a different number of circuits. Naturally a lot of different examples of labyrinths can thereby be created. I especially like that the entrance to the often bigger middle mostly lies on the central main axis. And, as far as I could ascertain, all labyrinths are left-handed.
In the book all labyrinths are shown, as well as the one at Tower Hill 95/270 which I mentioned before.
This one might be the best known labyrinth worldwide: The 7-circuit Cretan labyrinth (also called the Classical labyrinth).
For anyone who would like to buy the book, here is the information you need:
- Ausflug nach London (in German, but a lot of pictures)
- London Undergrund
- Mark Wallinger
- Tube Challenge
- Transport für London
- The Telegraph about Mark Wallinger