WORLD at New Broadcasting House
I fetched up this morning at the new wing of Broadcasting House to do my Point of View recording (just next to the Old Broadcasting House and where most of the outlying bits of the BBC are gradually being brought in). It was the first time I had been there in daylight . . . and the first time I had had a good look around.
Parts of the building are extremely elegant, and there are wonderful vertiginous vistas through glass from upper floors to the ground. And it's a great match for the old Broadcasting House. What is more, good or bad, anyone who think that BBC staff work in the lap of spacious luxury could well take a look round the packed "open plan" offices. (Not sure who chose the carpets though...some of the retro orange was a bit blood-curdling.)
But what caught my eye even more was the art work in the piazza outside. It's called WORLD by Mark Pimlott, and it is simply a series of lines of latitude and longitude set in the pavement, plus a series of place names.
Well it might do, but actually those place names were intriguing and entrancing. Not just which place names had been chosen to evoke the world (and to evoke, I suppose, the idea of "nation speaking unto nation"), and which place names had been chosen from history.. but also how they were nicely juxtaposed. What was put next to what.
I was pleased to find Pompeii represented, next to Portsmouth (didn't quite figure that), and Rubicon (one of rather few rivers)... and Troy next to Agincourt (battle sites?)...and Bhopal next to Aberfan (human disasters with a sense of industrial culpability). And so on.
It's one of those neatly simple ideas that works partly because it is so simple, and because it joins the familiar with the strange, and makes clever choices from the past. A bit like the way the names of all those movie stars work, set in the Hollywood pavement.
Needless to say the BBC bashers had had a go -- I discovered from a speedy web-search -- about wasting the licence-fee on this kind of thing. But the fact is that you dont get planning permission for a big project like this new Broadcasting House without putting a substantial amount of money into associated "public art". Which is what this is. (Though come to think of it I don't see why they couldn't have had a statue of George Orwell too...)