Tag Archives: Monolith

Cabbie’s Curios: A Monolith in St Katharine Docks

Based upon a story by Arthur C. Clarke and directed by Stanley Kubrick, 1968’s ‘2001 A Space Odyssey is widely considered to be one of cinema’s greatest science-fiction films.

2001 poster

Epic, disturbing and frequently baffling, one of the film’s most memorable recurring images is that of the mysterious black monolith which reveals itself at various key points in the evolution of mankind.

The Monolith's four appearances

The monolith’s four appearances

Initially, this looming icon was intended to be transparent and Stanley Kubrick commissioned a hefty 2-tonne prop from the aptly named Stanley Plastics. However, once on the set at Borehamwood Studios the notoriously picky director decided that the monolith looked far too sparkly and decided to change the design altogether. Basalt was selected as the new material, providing the monolith with its now infamous brooding aura.

Poster advertising '2001 A Space Odyssey' on the London Underground, circa 1968

Poster advertising ‘2001 A Space Odyssey’ on the London Underground, circa 1968

The rejected monolith was left to gather dust until 1977 when it was decided that it’d make the perfect basis for an artwork in honour of Her Majesty the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. The slab- said to be the largest solid block of Acrylic in the world- was therefore handed to sculptor, Arthur Fleischmann who carved a gleaming crown into the material.

The monolith at St Katherine Docks; its home since 1977

The monolith at St Katherine Docks; its home since 1977

The recycled prop has been on public display ever since at St Katherine Docks, Wapping quietly watching over London’s own transformation…


HAL 9000, the murderous super-computer from ‘2001’