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Edinburgh's Kinetic Sculpture


In September 1973, the most spectacular part of Edinburgh's Christmas decorations was announced as being a permanent 80-feet high 'spiral of kinetic art on a traffic roundabout at Picardy Place'.

The sculpture was designed by Roger Dainton. It was a metal tower on which were fixed 96 coloured light tubes linked to electrical circuits which were controlled by a wind vane. The idea was that the intensity, variation and rate of change of the lights would be determined by wind speed and direction, and that this would result in 'more than a million light pattern combinations'.

The switching-on ceremony on December 22, was attended by Mr Dainton, the designer, some council officials and a few bedraggled rain-soaked Christmas shoppers; but this was the era of the three day week and power restrictions - the infamous "winter of discontent" - and Government approval was given for only a sixty-second display of the flashing neon tubes. A permanent switch-on was delayed until April 1974.

The sculpture was less than enthusiastically received. Almost as soon as it was completed a campaign started to have it removed. It was described as a "tangled and twisted monument to a drunken scaffolder" and became popularly known as the "drunken pylon". Others considered it a "unique work of art". Debate raged, but the fates seem to have conspired with its detractors from the outset. The lighting system rarely operated properly for any length of time, and attempts to repair the complicated electronic mechanism were unsuccessful and abandoned each time. The only person that might have been able to shed light on the problem - Dainton himself - had it seems moved to Australia.

The kinetic sculpture survived ten years, during which time it almost never worked, and was finally removed in 1983.



<Walking Edinburgh: Twenty-Five Original Walks in and around Edinburgh
Walking Edinburgh: Twenty-Five Original Walks in and around Edinburgh