The Smile is a construction which was built in the courtyard of the University of the Arts, London next to the Tate Britain, a few weeks ago. It was fascinating watching it slowly appear as I walked to work from Pimlico each day. And when it was finished, yes, it looked like a big smile. But what was its purpose? Did it need one? After all, as Brian Eno said at a 6 Music lecture last year, “Art is all the things that you don’t have to do”.
But in fact, The Smile did have a purpose. It was part of the London Design Festival 2016, and it was a pioneering use of tulipwood timber. In the words of the handout you could take away, “The Smile, designed by Alison Brooks Architects and engineered by Arup, is an urban installation set to transform the way architects and engineers approach timber construction.” So art, architecture, engineering, technology all come together, as they do, and should. None of that government nonsense about getting everyone to do science and maths and not the more arts-based subjects. All have their place.
You could go inside The Smile too. there wasn’t much in there, but it did have a hold over you. And it was beautifully put together. You didn’t have to be expert to admire the precise design – The Smile is a perfect lower curve of a 50m radius circle – and the quality of the detail. Truly a work of art.
I took a few photos on a couple of different occasions – a rather gloomy morning and early evening. Hope you enjoy them – you can find out more at thetulipwoodsmile.info