See London's Biggest Pie Chart

M@
By M@
See London's Biggest Pie Chart
Pie chart map on a big wall at LSE

A pie chart, a map and a giant mural... all with a deeper message.

London's geekiest mural? It features a map superimposed on a pie chart so, yes, it has to be a contender. But there's a bit more to this striking, five-storey artwork on London School of Economics' campus.

Called 'Spectra', by Tod Hanson, the mural was commissioned as part of LSE's 125th anniversary celebrations in 2020. Hanson has form when it comes to large-scale mural work. You might have seen, for example, his impressive Elliptical Switchback at Haggerston station.

A map on a pie chart at LSE
It's hard to see from still images, but the mural uses trompe-l'oeil effects to appear 3D. Compare the apparent width of the disc's edge in the top image with this one. The red square at the centre represents the location of the mural. The Thames is at the bottom right.

If the map looks familiar, it might be because it's inspired by the late-19th century poverty maps of Charles Booth. These maps colour-coded London's street according to their affluence, or lack of. The streets where LSE now stands were crushingly poor at the time, as shown by the dark blues and blacks on Booth's map.

Part of the Charles Booth poverty map
The Charles Booth poverty map, showing that the area where LSE's campus would be built was one of London's poorest in the late 19th century (blue and black colouring).

Booth's original notebooks are held by LSE, and they have an excellent digital version of the maps online.

The pie chart, so far as I can work out, doesn't reflect any particular set of data. It is representative of the kind of statistical information and analysis that are LSE's bread and butter — or pie and mash, or something.

The LSE campus is a spectacular place to get a bit of free art. The most Instagrammed is surely Mark Wallinger's upside-down globe, but look out too for tiny animal sculptures, a scrunched up facade, a Thames mural and a Banksy-esque relief sculpture of toga-wearing ancients doing a supermarket shop. More murals coming soon, too, I read.

Last Updated 07 December 2023