“Imagine all the people,” John Lennon sang, “living life in peace.”
In 2007, Lennon‘s widow Yoko Ono immortalized his words by unveiling the Imagine Peace Tower, a work of art that consists of a blazing tower of light. Essentially, it’s a white stone monument containing 15 searchlights, with prisms that act as mirrors and that reflect the light vertically into the sky. On a clear night, the light extends upward at least 4000 metres.
The words “Imagine Peace” are inscribed on the monument in 24 languages. Buried underneath the tower are over one million written wishes that Ono gathered over the years in another project (Wish Trees). The tower serves as a memorial not only to John Lennon but also to his and Ono‘s vision of world peace.
Ono chose Viðey island in Reykjavík as the location for this outdoor artwork. Every year on Lennon‘s birthday, October 9, a ceremony is held on the small island in which they turn on the tower‘s light. It shines throughout much of the winter, reflecting off the low clouds above Reykjavík until it is turned off on December 8 – the day Lennon was assassinated in New York City by Mark David Chapman outside the former’s residence at the Dakota apartment building in Manhattan.
Construction of the Imagine Peace Tower began on October 9th, 2006 and it was officially unveiled on the same date in 2007. The ceremony was broadcast internationally to numerous television networks. In attendance with Ono was son Sean Lennon, bandmate Ringo Starr, Olivia Harrison, widow of George Harrison, and Olivia’s son Dhani Harrison. Paul McCartney was invited but could not attend due to a court case. Yoko Ono said on the day of the inauguration that the tower was the best thing that she and John had ever done.
The tower is also lit in the week of the Winter Solstice December 21–31, February 18 (Yoko Ono‘s birthday), and the week of the Spring Equinox March 20–27.
The Imagine Peace Tower will be lit once again on October 9, 2022 – what would have been John Lennon‘s 82nd birthday.