Paradigm: a public art commission for the Crick


Commissioned by the Francis Crick Institute and funded by the Wellcome Trust, Paradigm, by artist Conrad Shawcross, is one of the tallest public sculptures in central London at an imposing 14 metres, comprising a twisting stack of tetrahedra that grow in size. The work is a feat of engineering and continues the artist's long-standing collaboration with structural engineering practice Structure Workshop.

Thomas Kuhn's theory of the 'paradigm shift' provides a starting point for Shawcross' work for the Crick. Kuhn, an American philosopher of science, believed that scientific advancement does not progress in a seamless linear fashion, but rather through massive shifts that lead to breakthroughs, which change the course of thought, comprehension and application.

Paradigm provides a metaphor for potential: to grow; to advance; to discover. Its majestic form embodies boldness and courage whilst the material it is constructed from (weathering steel) gives a respectful nod to the industrial heritage of the area. 

The commission is the result of a long and considered selection process by the Crick, working with Artwise Curators, for a new sculpture which would reflect the ambitions of the institute. A group of eminent international artists was shortlisted in 2013 and, after a rigorous process, Conrad Shawcross' concept for Paradigm was selected.

'Paradigm playfully toys with an idea at the very heart of the scientific process; but it also demonstrates just how much public art can add to a city, interacting in intriguing ways with both King's Cross' built environment  and its history. Ken Arnold, Creative Director, the Wellcome Trust.

We commissioned a series of short films to document the design, fabrication and installation of Paradigm. These can be viewed below.





The Artist
Conrad Shawcross (b. London,1977) is quickly becoming recognised as one of the most exciting and innovative sculptors in the UK today. His work weaves together the practicalities of geometry, mathematics and engineering with symbolism found in philosophy and metaphysics. Rooted in his work is an interest in science that he explores rather than illustrates in his sculptural and kinetic works of art. 

Elected to The Royal Academy of Arts in 2013, Conrad Shawcross is the youngest living Royal Academician. His work has been seen in museums and public spaces all over the world. He currently lives and works in London and is represented by Victoria Miro Gallery. 

  • The sculpture is 14 metres tall.
  • It consistst of 17 tetrahedra.
  • The width of the largest tetrahedron is approximately 5 metres.
  • The base is just under 800mm wide.
  • The four pile foundations are 19.3 metres deep.
  • The sculpture weighs more than 27 tonnes.
  • Around 450 metres of welding wire weighing approximately 2 tonnes was used to make Paradigm.