25 September 2018
An ‘Idol’ Tuesday
London Mithraeum - Bloomberg Space
The weather is crisp, a familiar blue sky paints the ceiling above London. It is Autumn. It is a Tuesday. Nothing remarkable tends to happen on a Tuesday.
Our client, T.Rowe Price, is across the road from the new Bloomberg European Headquarters. 10 years in the making and designed by Foster and Partners, the 3.2 acre site houses two buildings that thump into the cityscape and nestle into an ever-changing London.
Unweathered Derbyshire sandstone, the same building material as the adjacent Victorian magistrates’ court, modestly gives a nod to its surroundings. Imposing, yet elegant.
The building is a statement of power. A devotion to a set of values designed with an air of permanence to outlive its creators. So, seemingly, is the secret it hides. It was by no means the first building to be built on this site.
Seven metres below is London Mithraeum, The Roman Temple of Mithras and one of the UK’s most significant archeological sites. In the 3rd century, nearly 200 years after the founding of Londinium, a temple was built to the god Mithras.
The temple was rediscovered on a bomb site by chance around 1952. In 1962, it was moved and reconstructed 100m from where it was discovered, making way for modern life. In 2010, it was faithfully restored within the publicly accessible Bloomberg Space at its original level and slightly to the west of its initial placement.
This is a masterful piece of storytelling. Artefacts conveying the history of the space interplay with Samsung tablets. Instead of jockeying for position in the physical space, you can take a tablet from the wall and explore the artefacts on the tablet, reading more about the detail and appreciating the collection as a whole in your own time.
As you descend to meet the lower level, key dates etched on the wall are revealed. You arrive in a dark room. Three artefacts are on display, accompanied by plasma touch screens. Joanna Lumley’s voice interviews academics and archeologists about the origin of the site and Mithras. You are coaxed to investigate further. Eight short-throw projectors cast vague silhouettes on the walls. Eerie shadows dance and blend into distinct hazy figures. The physical space conjures something deliberately otherworldly.
We descend further still. We are presented with a dimly lit room. Stonework is barely visible below a glass gangway floating above the ruins.
This is a piece of emersive theatre. Sound and light support the soundtrack of a ceremony starting. The lighting and shadows restore the supporting pillars of the former temple. The outline of a statue to Mithas is visible on a plinth at the end.
As a piece of Experience Design, this is the perfect blend of physical remnants of a bygone age and archeological interpretation. It breeds excitement and encourages more questions. It provides a unique memory, bringing to life a set of stones that is part of every Londoner’s shared history.
More information on visiting the London Mithraeum Bloomberg SPACE is available at the official website:
Bloomberg, London, UK
Space design – Local Projects