Panoramas, Hakas and Plinths

The Aotearoa-New Zealand High Commission in London is in a 18-storey tower-block called New Zealand House, a stones-throw from Trafalgar Square. The views from the top are spectacular – it is the tallest building for miles around that part of central London. Not quite as tall or as elegant as Skytower in Auckland, but good none-the-less.

New Zealand House via Wikimedia
Skytower, Auckland, via 'kiwi' on Flickr

Historically, Kiwi citizens were able, on the production of a NZ passport to visit the penthouse suite at the top of the London tower block and appreciate it’s spectacular panoramic views.

For years, Kay had to wait downstairs, as Kiwi friends and visitors had the chance to view London from this unique vantage-point. When she finally got her own kiwi passport (she has dual UK/NZ nationality), and the opportunity to rise to the top floor, threats of terrorism prevented access to the public after all!

Kay has finally discovered a way to get up there though. A number of organisations run events in the penthouse suite, for example KEA, (‘New Zealand’s Global Talent Community’ – never backward in coming forward these Kiwis!) presents a number of events up there. We went recently to the Kapa Haka Supa 6. Under the auspices of Maramara Totara, the New Zealand House traditional weaponry and culture group, three excellent teams of Maori performing arts talent presented some rather post-modern versions of Maori songs, games and the haka. It was a very high standard of performances – comparable with the best we have seen in Aotearoa/New Zealand. I think this photo was of the winning team.

Kapa Haka Supa 6
Kapa Haka Supa 6

One of the privileges of going to an event in the penthouse suite of NZ House (and one of the best reasons …!) is a chance to see the spectacular views from the terrace. I have stitched some of the photos together into a panorama, and tried producing an interactive virtual version. Click & drag mouse/trackpad to view the left & right of the image.

Click & drag mouse/trackpad to view the left & right of the interactive image

There was one particular part of the view I wanted to check out from the top of NZ House. The corner of Trafalgar Square, and especially ‘the Fourth Plinth’.

Trafalgar Square from NZ House
Trafalgar Square from NZ House

The Fourth Plinth, originally planned to have a sculpture of a horse on it, remained empty for many years, and now hosts a number of short-term sculptural exhibits each year.

The current plinth sculpture is Thomas Schütte’s ‘Model for a Hotel‘. From the top of NZ House, you get a view of Trafalgar Square, partially obscured by the Canadian High Commission building, but you can just make out the fluorescent green/yellow of Schütte’s sculpture.

Fourth Plinth from NZ House
Fourth Plinth from NZ House

I was particularly keen to see if you could glimpse the Fourth Plinth, because I am one of the over 11,000 people who have applied to be part of Antony Gormley’s next project, One and Other, as the next Plinth sculpture. (I previously blogged here and here about my bid.) Current chance of getting on the Plinth from those applying from the ‘South East’? About 19.5%.

My ‘bid’ is to do something with sign language on the plinth, should I get picked; but I wonder after this event if I should also learn something of the haka too!

New Zealand House Panorama - click to download larger version
New Zealand House Panorama - click to see larger version on Flickr