Outside Kulturhuset in Stockholm, you can see the iconic glass obelisk created by Edvin Öhrström. There are many split opinions about it, some people think it's beautiful whilst others think it's ugly. The sculpture is called "Crystal – vertical accent in glass and steel".
This story is about the history behind, and how ideas and visions sometimes can turn out to be some-thing else than what you expected…
Everything began with the creation of Sergels Torg, which was finished in the year 1964 after a big reno-vation. Stockholm City announced a competition for a modern monumental sculpture in the middle of the fountain of Sergels Torg. Edvin was one of the nine male competitors, and his idea of a crystal glass statue won.
His idea was to build a 37,5 metres tall sculpture of crystal glass with a construction made of steel. 60,000 glass prisms in different colours; pink, soda green, blue and clear glass. Inside there would be lights in different colours, which would glow up the sculpture during day and night, and the colours would slowly shift between the different shades. The grand sculpture would give a sense of intimacy and contrast the surrounding environment
of Sergels Torg. It would be like a colourful ray of light with dancing water from the fountain.
During the winter it would provide Sergels Torg with warm red-yellow colours, and perhaps the cold weather would contribute
to its beauty with frost and icicles.
A sunny day it would shine with cooler colours, such as ocean green, blue and violet. Edvin also imagined the crystal to sparkle in the sunshine and create a poetic shimmer…
Building a statue of crystal glass turned out to be too expensive, and so Edvin was forced to use ordinary glass instead. Glass doesn't break light as beautiful as crystal glass does, and also it collects more dust and dirt. This gave the statue a greyer look, instead of the crystal effect which Edvin had imagined.
He entrusted the town to provide the lightning, which sparked a twenty-year long period of testing different kinds of solutions. During the 70's, there didn't exist lightning solutions good enough to make Edvin's vision come true. They tried everything from power-hungry halogen lamps with and without colours to advanced solutions with a light-guiding optical plastic film. None of this made Edvin satisfied. He even financed his own light experiment, which didn't give a satisfactory result either.
Since the sculpture didn't really remind of a crystal, people started calling it "the stick" and "the glass obelisk" instead. They were disappointed that they couldn't see any sparkle in the day. During the day the sculpture had a grey, hard and cold surface, but in the night, it lit up and trans-formed into a different form.
Edvin was at the time an old man, and he followed the process of his sculpture at Sergels Torg to the end of his time. He passed away in 1994, and of course, it was a pity to never have the chance to see the pillar become the colourful ray of light he had imagined.
In 2015, the sculpture
was very dirty due to all
smog and air pollution,
the 60,000 prisms were calcified and needed a thorough cleaning. With the modern technique at the time, they also changed the lightning to modern LED-lightning, which can be illuminated in any colour and is much stronger than previous attempts.
In the Year of 2017, Stockholm had a new, clean glass sculpture which lits up in one colour every night. Hopefully, Edvin would've been happier with this result, even if the colours don't shift between shades as he imagined. And only do so during the night since the light is not visible during daylight. Today, one shade of colour displays during a week until it changes to another one. The result is thirty-six different shades of colours over an entire year.
Maybe a sparkling crystal in the middle of Sergels Torg would've been a blinding traffic hazard. Edvin talked about a poetic shimmer, and today it is poetic but in a different way; in an honest, grey, hard and cold one. Perhaps after reading this story, you will see the glass obelisk in a different way than before and even appreciate it a little bit more.
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