Above photo - Trafalgar Square
|The square consists of a large central area surrounded by roadways on three sides, and stairs leading to the National Gallery on the other. The roads which cross the square form part of the busy A4 road, and prior to 2003, the square was surrounded by a one-way traffic system on all sides. Underpasses attached to Charing Cross tube station still allow pedestrians to avoid traffic. Recent works have reduced the width of the roads and closed the northern side of the square to traffic.
Photo above: The Trafalgar
square. Its one of the most refreshing places
in the world
Column is in the centre of the square, surrounded
by fountains designed by Lutyens in 1939 and
four huge bronze lions sculpted by Sir Edwin
Landseer; the metal used is said to have been
recycled from the cannon of the French fleet.
The column is topped by a statue of Lord Nelson,
the admiral who commanded the British Fleet
the north side of the square is the National
Gallery and to its east the St Martin's-in-the-Fields
church. The square adjoins The Mall via Admiralty
Arch to the southwest. To the south is Whitehall,
to the east Strand and South Africa House, to
the north Charing Cross Road and on the west
side is Canada House. At the corners of the
square are four plinths; the two northern ones
were intended to be used for equestrian statues,
and thus are wider than the two southern. Three
of them hold statues: George IV (northeast,
1840s), Henry Havelock (southeast, 1861, by
William Behnes), and Sir Charles James Napier
(southwest, 1855). Mayor of London Ken Livingstone
controversially expressed a desire to see the
two generals replaced with statues that "ordinary
Londoners would know".
1888 the statue of General Charles George Gordon
was erected. In 1943 the statue was removed
and, in 1953, re-sited on the Victoria Embankment.
|The Square has become an enormously important symbolic social and political location for visitors and Londoners alike, developing over its history from "an esplanade peopled with figures of national heroes, into the country's foremost place politique," as historian Rodney Mace has written. Its symbolic importance was demonstrated in 1940 when the Nazi SS developed secret plans to transfer Nelson's Column to Berlin following an expected German invasion, as related by Norman Longmate in If Britain Had Fallen (1972).
fourth plinth The fourth plinth
on the northwest corner was intended to hold
a statue of William IV, but remained empty due
to insufficient funds.
agreement could not be reached over which monarch
or military hero to place there. In 1999, the
Royal Society of Arts conceived the idea of
the Fourth Plinth Project, which temporarily
occupied the plinth with a succession of works
commissioned from three contemporary artists.
These were: Ecce Homo, by Mark Wallinger (1999)
Regardless of History, by Bill Woodrow (2000)
Monument, by Rachel Whiteread (2001) Wallinger's
Ecce Homo - whose title, in Latin, means "behold
the man", a Biblical reference - was of a life-sized
man. Atop the huge plinth, designed for larger-than-life
statuary, it looked minuscule.
commentators said that, far from making the
man look insignificant, his apparent tininess
drew the eye powerfully; they interpreted it
as a commentary on human delusions of grandeur.
Whiteread's Monument, by an artist already notable
for her controversial Turner Prize-winning work
"House" and the Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial
in Vienna, was a cast of the plinth in transparent
resin, and placed upside-down on top of the
original. Following the exhibition project,
some wished to see it continue in this role.
companies have used the plinth (often without
permission) as a platform for publicity stunts,
including a model of David Beckham by Madame
Tussauds. The London-based American harmonica
player Larry Adler jokingly suggested erecting
a statue of Moby Dick, which would then be called
the "Plinth of Whales". The best use of the
fourth plinth remains the subject of debate.
On March 24, 2003 an appeal was launched by
Wendy Woods, the widow of the anti-apartheid
journalist Donald Woods, hoping to raise £400,000
to pay for a nine-foot high statue of Nelson
Mandela by Ian Walters.
relevance of the location is that South Africa
House, the South African high commission, scene
of many anti-apartheid demonstrations, is also
located on Trafalgar Square. A committee convened
to consider the RSA's late-1990s project concluded
that it had been a success and "unanimously
recommended that the plinth should continue
to be used for an ongoing series of temporary
works of art commissioned from leading national
and international artists".
several years in which the plinth stood empty,
the new Greater London Authority assumed responsibility
for the fourth plinth and started its own series
of temporary exhibitions: Marc Quinn: Alison
Lapper Pregnant (September 15, 2005) Thomas
Schutte: Hotel for the Birds (scheduled for
April 2007) Quinn's Alison Lapper Pregnant is
a 3.6m marble torso-bust of Alison Lapper, an
artist who was born with no arms and shortened
legs due to a condition called phocomelia.
The square is a popular tourist spot in London, and
used to be particularly famous for its pigeons (rock
doves). Feeding the pigeons was a popular activity with
Londoners and tourists.
National Portrait Gallery displays a 1948 photograph
of Elizabeth Taylor posing there with bird seed so as
to be mobbed by birds. The desirability of the birds'
presence has long been contentious: their droppings
look ugly on buildings and damage the stonework, and
the flock, estimated at its peak to be 35,000, was considered
to be a health hazard.
In 1996, police arrested one man who was estimated to
have trapped 1500 birds for sale to a middleman; it
is assumed that the birds ended up in the human food
chain. In 2000, the sale of bird seed in the square
was controversially terminated and other measures were
introduced to discourage the pigeons, including the
use of trained falcons. Supporters of the pigeons and
some tourists continued to feed the birds, but, in 2003,
Ken Livingstone enacted by-laws to ban the feeding of
pigeons within the square. There are now relatively
few birds in Trafalgar Square and it is used for festivals
and hired out to film companies, in a way that was not
feasible in the 1990s.