Five Years of Festive Firs

From a raving laser tree to a soaring sledge sculpture, Tommy Melville takes a look back at King’s Cross’ unconventional Yuletide centrepieces

Posted: Tuesday 5th December 2017

'DOES THE ITERATIVE FIT' Christmas Tree, Granary Square

2017 – Joanne Tatham + Tom O’ Sullivan
Does The Iterative Fit

Artists, Tatham and O’Sullivan, have been collaborating since the mid-nineties and are famous for their large-scale, colourfully theatrical objects. Together, they have made work in and for many unusual contexts, most recently for Granary Square’s 2017 Christmas tree DOES THE ITERATIVE FIT. The tree is instantly recognisable as a Tatham and O’Sullivan artwork, with its colourful painted finish and gaping faces covering an archetypal cone-shaped tree. The cone plays a central role in their work, and here it’s used to maximum effect as the tree itself, as well as the noses and mouths of the eight faces looking out from it. With its over-sized, cartoonish appearance, the tree is sure to cause a stir as visitors will be able to get close enough to hear some of what it is thinking.

Fighting fire with ice cream, King's Cross Christmas Tree, Granary Square, King's Cross

2016 – Alex Chinneck
Fighting Fire With Ice Cream

Noted British sculptor Alex Chinneck’s monumental piece for Granary Square saw a Christmas tree encrusted with 1,200 lights ‘frozen’ within a giant ice cube.

The 23 foot piece (the height of a two-storey house) was actually carved from two tonnes of resin, with wax used around its base to simulate the melting ice, which appeared to drip into Granary Square’s fountains. Chinneck, who specialises in architectural installations featuring optical illusions, noted how
important it was to produce a piece of art that was unique to its setting: “I wanted to create an installation that was visually and theatrically intertwined with the fountains of Granary Square. They bring the location to life and so it was logical to take inspiration from their animating presence.”

A tree made from sledges and Christmas lights in Granary Square at King's Cross2015 – Hello Wood + Creatmosphere
Let It Snow

Budapest-based creative educators Hello Wood and light artists Creatmosphere
brought a touch of the traditional back to Granary Square at the end of 2015. Let it Snow was a decidedly tree-shaped structure built from 365 sledges (yep, one for each day of the year). Illuminated in a cycle of colour-changing motion and sound representing the four seasons, the 11-metre piece invited people to view the tree in different ways (and provided a preview for the 2016 Lumiere London light festival). The piece also offered a subliminal message against global warming (when was tobogganing on London’s hills last possible after all?) and when dismantled, one-hundred of the sledges were donated to local schools, with the rest auctioned off to the public.

Winter Sun in Granary Square, King's Cross


2014 – Kim Coleman + James Bowthorpe
Winter Sun

Possibly the world’s most conceptual Christmas tree (in that it wasn’t a tree at all), Winter Sun was an abstract project that commented on our need for light during the winter months. Designed by artists Kim Coleman and James Bowthorpe, who collaborated with architect Andrew Lock, the centre piece of this hearth like public space was twelve glowing ‘suns’ which radiated light at different levels. A sensory treat, some mimicked daylight, while others oscillated between a continuous sunrise and sunset. More than an installation, Winter Sun also acted as a social space. Built around a temporary structure in which passers-by could buy teas, coffees and carefully crafted hot cocktails, it provided a much-needed sanctuary for people to gather away from the long, dark nights of the season.

Laser Tree projected onto the Midland Goods Shed - Christmas 2013 King's Cross

2013 – Urban Electric + Office Of Change
Laser Tree

Debuting to the sound of pumping beats, soaring synth and pounding piano, King’s Cross’ first festive fir (and the world’s first laser Christmas tree) paid homage to the area’s pioneering role in the nineties rave scene when it was home to some of London’s best-known clubs including Bagley’s, The Cross, Canvas and the Beautiful Bend. Recognising and remembering that history brought the Office of Change and Urban Electric together to create Laser Tree, which was projected onto the Midland’s Good Shed from the King’s Cross Filling Station. Savvy tree-spotters bagged a seat on the terrace at Shrimpy’s with a hot chocolate to experience the tree’s hourly RAVE MODE, when it would blast out rave classics from the likes of N-Joi and throw shapes in the form of a laser light show.

This article first appeared in the winter 2017 edition of King’s Cross Quarterly magazine. Read more about the people and stories that make King’s Cross, or find out where you can pick up the latest copy of King’s Cross Quarterly below. 


Caravan | 18montrose | Carhartt WIP | Spiritland | Dishoom | Frame | Lighterman | Radio Hair | Sid Motion gallery


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