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Traffic Light tree

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Title: Traffic Light tree  
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Traffic Light tree

Pierre Vivant's famous "Traffic Light tree" near Canary Wharf, London
"Traffic Light tree" in its original location, without visible control cabinet
A photograph taken with a slow shutter speed, showing all of the sculpture's lights illuminated
A video showing a 1¼ minute sequence of the lights

The Traffic Light tree was created by French sculptor Pierre Vivant following a competition run by the Public Art Commissions Agency. It was situated on a roundabout near Canary Wharf, at the junctions of Heron Quay Bank, Marsh Wall and Westferry Road in one of London's financial districts.[1]

Eight metres tall and containing 75 sets of lights, each controlled by computer, Vivant described the project thus:

"The sculpture imitates the natural landscape of the adjacent London Plane Trees, while the changing pattern of the lights reveals and reflects the never ending rhythm of the surrounding domestic, financial and commercial activities."[2]

The Public Art Commission Agency said that "The arbitrary cycle of light changes is not supposed to mimic the seasonal rhythm of nature, but the restlessness of Canary Wharf."[3]

The Traffic Light tree was installed in 1998 on the site of a plane tree,[4] that was suffering as a result of pollution.[5] It was initially intended that the lights would be triggered to reflect flurries of activity on the London Stock Exchange, but this proved to be too expensive to put into practice.[6]

Although some motorists were initially confused by the traffic lights, mistaking them for real signals, the sculpture soon became a favourite among both tourists and locals. In 2005, Saga Motor Insurance commissioned a survey asking British motorists about the best and worst roundabouts in the country. The Traffic Light tree was the clear favourite.[7]

Temporary removal

In December 2011, the sculpture was removed by the owner, Tower Hamlets Council, as part of remodelling work to the Westferry roundabout.[8] In January 2012 the council stated that the work would remain on the Isle of Dogs, but without a specific location being named,[9] although it was reported in early 2013 that a planning application had been received by the Council to re-install the piece on the Trafalgar Way roundabout near Billingsgate Market.[10] Re-erection was planned to begin on 11 November 2013 at the Trafalgar Way roundabout, and completed by 11 December 2013.

On 18 January 2014, Councillor Gloria Thienel announced that the official lighting up ceremony at the new location at Billingsgate Fish Market roundabout was scheduled for Monday 20 January 2014 at 14:30, with the ceremony lead by the Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman.[11][12]


  1. ^ "The Traffic Light Tree, Pierre Vivant 1998". City Noise. 12 June 2006. Retrieved 29 September 2009. 
  2. ^ Ivanov, Alexander. "London's Lesser Known". March 2009. Retrieved 29 September 2009. 
  3. ^ Hackett, Regina (8 September 2008). "Bladerunner, continued". Seattle P-I. Retrieved 29 September 2009. 
  4. ^ "Pierre Vivant". Retrieved 29 September 2009. 
  5. ^ Sumpter, Helen (10 April 2006). "Sculpture club". Time Out. London. Retrieved 29 September 2009. 
  6. ^ "Grand Illusions: Traffic Light Tree". Retrieved 29 September 2009. 
  7. ^ "Brits vote on the best and worst roundabouts". 20 Dec 2005. Retrieved 29 September 2009. 
  8. ^ Virtue, Rob (8 December 2011). "Upset as Westferry Traffic Light Tree removed". Wharf. Retrieved 14 December 2011. 
  9. ^ Virtue, Rob (2012-01-24). "Traffic Light Tree will return to the Isle of Dogs". Wharf. Retrieved 2012-01-25. 
  10. ^ Brook, Mike (14 January 2013). "Iconic Traffic Light tree to shine a light on Canary Wharf again". East London Advertiser. Retrieved 10 November 2013. 
  11. ^ Thienel, Gloria R. (18 January 2014). "Lighting Up" (email) (Press release). 
  12. ^ Virtue, Rob (21 January 2014). "Canary Wharf's Traffic Light Tree switched on". Wharf. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 

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