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London's Newest Building Seems to Be Floating Away

This architectural magic trick would make David Copperfield proud.

Matt Brown/Flickr

Imagine removing what you think is the losing block in a Jenga game, only to have the top of the tower remain hovering in the air. That's the illusion artist Alex Chinneck has accomplished with this London building, whose upper half seems to have broken from its mooring bricks to float away into the sky.

The gravity-defying structure, which went up last week in Covent Garden, is the latest architectural oddity from the 30-year-old Chinneck; he's also made an upside-down townhouse and a facade that's sliding onto the street. For the levitating building, titled "Take My Lightning But Don’t Steal My Thunder," the artist's team toiled to re-create the area's 184-year-old stone edifices with lightweight foam blocks. They then spent four days assembling the installation, at one point slipping in a hidden mechanism that achieves the semblance of weightlessness. (See if you can spot it in the below time-lapse video.)

Here's Chinneck speaking on why he designed this whaaaa?-inducing thing:

"My objective was to create an accessible artwork that makes a harmonious but breath-taking contribution to its historic surroundings, leaving a lasting and positive impression upon the cultural landscape of Covent Garden and in the minds of its many visitors. The hovering building introduces contemporary art to traditional architecture, performing a magic trick of spectacular scale to present the everyday world in an extraordinary way."

This front-view photo provides a nice peek into the structure's grievous rift, which measures more than 10 feet in places; many more images are posted at Archilovers. The surreal building will remain standing (soaring?) until this Friday.

(SUARTS/Flickr)

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.