New Embankment Plan with Dome 2006 is a pencil and gouache drawing on paper. Mimicking the style of classical cartography, Bronstein depicts the River Thames as it snakes its way through the east of London, between Greenwich and the Isle of Dogs, around the Millennium Dome (mentioned in the title) and through the Thames Barrier. The lines are minimal and deliberately conventional, and blue colour has been applied to mark the course of the river. Combining historical research with new invention, the work proposes a new plan for the Millennium Dome which was designed by architect Richard Rogers (born 1933) and built in 1999 to mark the new millennium. A detailed elevation of Bronstein’s new proposal is depicted on the right hand side of the composition, a towering cylindrical building in a classical style that resembles the Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome dating from 135–8 AD, commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian. This new design for the dome’s elevation is presented within an elaborate baroque-style frame drawn in pencil.
Bronstein’s work takes an ironic look at London’s controversial Millennium Dome project and the accompanying intended regeneration of the Greenwich Peninsula. Conceived under John Major’s Conservative government, the Dome (now the O2 Arena) was meant to be a Festival of Britain or World Fair type building to mark the year 2000. The incoming Labour government, elected in 1997 under Tony Blair, greatly expanded the size of the project. Apart from the dome itself, the project included an ambitious plan to regenerate a sparsely populated area in the east of London, south of the River Thames, land that was largely derelict having been contaminated by toxic sludge from an earlier gasworks that operated on the site from 1889 to 1985.
In his work, Bronstein frequently borrows elements from the highly ornate style of late baroque sculpture and architecture, as well as from neoclassical and postmodern architecture, in order to investigate the distance between their differing appropriations of classicism and the ways in which such architectural statements are used to represent commercial and political power. Writing about Bronstein’s work, art critic Martin Herbert has observed:
Bronstein’s art represents a fantasy of agency, one that defines itself in opposition to existing determining forces that are barely visible – and not just because they’ve become too familiar or are so easily construed as relics of an old regime. At its most ambitious, his multistranded production is a hopeful model of engagement not only with ideology’s ghosting of the built monuments of yesterday, but also its obscured presence in those of today … those hushed icons of our post-industrial era that claim to be ‘neutral’ architecture.
(Herbert 2007, p.317.)
Bronstein has made other drawings investigating London’s architectural and urban landscape, for example Erecting of the Paternoster Square Column 2008 (Tate T12782), a work that depicts the recent redevelopment of Paternoster Square in the City of London.
Eliza Williams, ‘Pablo Bronstein’, Art Review, no.5, May–June 2006, p.122.
Martin Herbert, ‘Pablo Bronstein’, Artforum, vol.45, no.6, February 2007, p. 280–281.
Pablo Bronstein, Ornamental Designs for the Framing of Doors, London 2008.