London to Burn a Massive, Wooden Model of the City

A huge model of the 17th century London skyline will be set ablaze to mark the anniversary of the Great Fire of London.

by Kevin Holmes
01 September 2016, 1:15pm

London 1666. Image via Artichoke Facebook

Back in 1666, between the 2nd to the 5th of September, the Great Fire of London razed much of the city to the ground. Now, the 17th century skyline that the flames engulfed has been commemorated in an artwork by US "burn" artist and sculptor David Best and creative company Artichoke. The model isn't an exact recreation but is instead an interpretation of Restoration-era London. Best drew some designs which were then interpreted into 3D timber models encompassing around 190 buildings including churches, towers, and factories. The slender, very combustible-looking structures were built over several months by young Londoners and volunteers to create a 395' long sculpture mounted on barges. 

A huge reason why the Great Fire was so devastating was that many of London's buildings in 1666 were composed of wood, so it tore through the city relentlessly, taking it with it the old St. Paul's Cathedral which had stood for over 500 years. It also made thousands of people homeless. Deduced from a melted piece of pottery found where the fire started in Pudding Lane—now on display at the Museum of London—it's thought that temperatures reached around 1,250°C.

GIF by author, via

To mark the catastrophe (and the new London that rose from the smoldering ruins), Best's sculpture will set sail down the Thames and be set ablaze on September 4, 2016 at 8:30 PM BST to mark 350 years since the event. You can watch it from the banks of the Thames between Blackfriars Bridge and Waterloo Bridge and also livestreamed online by The Space.

"Back at the beginning of mankind when we were frightened by animals we lit a fire and huddled around it. I use fire as a healing. It's not used as a weapon," explains Best. London 1666 is part of a serious of events marking the Great Fire and its impact on London's architecture, character, and cityscape.

Watch a timelapse of the build in the video below.

Visit Great Fire 350's website here to learn more about the events marking the Great Fire of London's anniversary. 


Watch a Crowd Build and Burn a Giant Wooden Temple

Artist Paints the Fire That Destroyed Her Childhood Home

Chart London's Vibes on an Illustrated "Psychogeographical" Map

David Best
Great Fire 350
Great Fire of London
London 1666