Re-Creating Tatlin’s Tower

Tatlin’s great monument to the 3rd International was intended to be taller than the Eiffel Tower. At 1,200ft it would have been a dominant feature on the St Petersburg skyline.The 2011 steel re-creation and the timber re-creation at the Hayward Gallery in 1972 are approximately 1:40 scale. The story of the re-creation starts in 1972 with the work done for “Art in Revolution” exhibition at the Hayward Gallery when Jeremy Dixon, Christopher Cross and Christopher Woodward, along with the engineer Sven Rindl were asked to re-create the tower.

For us the carefully drawn side elevation of the tower remains the most memorable of Tatlin’s images. The challenge was to unravel the three-dimensional reality behind the two-dimensional elevation drawing. A series of sketch models by Jeremy Dixon uncovered the three-dimensional nature of the spirals and a hidden geometry behind the construction of the tower. The model demonstrated how an inclined temporary cone consisting of 24 members is used to project a series of horizontals and verticals that describe the curvatures of the spirals. When linked together with a continuously curved spiralling perimeter element, the sculptural intentions are realised.

In the progress shot from the 1972 Hayward Gallery re-creation, one can see the inner cone of timber joists within the more skeletal red painted spiral structure. The joists were removed when the construction was complete. The Royal Academy of Arts approached Jeremy Dixon in 2011 to re-create the Tatlin’s Tower in the Royal Academy Courtyard as part of it’s Building the Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-1935 exhibition. This time the geometry was resolved on the computer using the principles established in 1972 before being re-created at 1:40 scale by MDM Props. Tatlin’s side elevation was traced to establish the geometry.

At the end of the exhibition the tower was donated by The Royal Academy to the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich. Newly refurbished by MDM Props it was installed adjacent to the Grade II* listed Norman Foster-designed building at the Centre and now forms part of a wider outdoor Sculpture Park that extends across the University campus and includes pieces by Henry Moore and Antony Gormley.