What Is That Upside-Down Pylon In North Greenwich?

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 18 months ago

Last Updated 06 January 2023

What Is That Upside-Down Pylon In North Greenwich?
an upside down pylon in front of canary wharf
Well that doesn't look right.

At first glance, it looks like global warming might've stepped up a notch, and extreme weather has started flipping over London's pylons.

But the upside-down electricity pylon of North Greenwich is in fact a sculpture — the romantically-titled A Bullet From a Shooting Star, by artist Alex Chinneck.

The 35-metre-tall sculpture is made from 450 pieces of steel, weighing a combined 15 tonnes (Chinneck was ably assisted by various fabricators and engineers, otherwise he'd still be fusing the thing together now).

Chinnock poses with his zany creation
Chinneck poses with his zany creation.

The sculpture was erected on Ordnance Crescent, just to the south-west of The O2, as part of 2015's London Design Festival. Like other artworks in this neck of the woods — we're looking at you, segment of a sliced up ship — it's stuck around.

Why this spot in particular? The pylon was positioned so it could be seen by people getting on and off at North Greenwich station, tourists dangling from the cable car, others shooting by on the Thames Clipper, businesspeople doing business in Canary Wharf, and passengers flying into City Airport.

Essentially, it's there to befuddle half of south-east London.

close up of the pylon with an old gas holder behind it
The pylon references the area's industrial past — and specifically this nearby gasholder

That's not the only reason A Bullet From a Shooting Star is where it is, though. This area of North Greenwich once had the largest oil and gas works in Europe — as well as a steelworks. So the sculpture is a jaunty hat-doff to such heritage; and in particular, its latticed steelwork is a nod to that of a nearby gasholder. (Dare we also suggest the pylon could be a reference to The O2's yellow support towers? No? OK then, sorry.)

You might have unwittingly clocked other works by Chinneck, in which he puts absurd twists on the mundane. He slid the frontage off a house in Margate, put an upside-down house on Blackfriars Road, and parked a Vauxhall Corsa upside down in front of the London Eye.

He likes upside-down things, alright.

Some info taken from an original Londonist article by Tabish Khan.