!nsp!re – Mark Fisher 1947-2013

The intersection of art and architecture is a bit dimmer today as the concert design world mourns the loss of Mark Fisher. Among Mark’s prolific work are twelve of the most complex stadium shows ever toured. His work was highly aspirational, demonstrating what could be done at the bleeding edge of art and technology.

Mark Fisher, Architect and Artist
Mark Fisher, Architect and Artist

Mark was born in 1947 in Warwickshire, England. After graduating from the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London (1971), he began his work in earnest as an architect. In 1984, he formed Fisher Park Partnership with Jonathan Park.

He found his way into the world of concert design and quickly became known for his ability to work on a huge scale. His early designs include Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” (1980) and The Rolling Stones “Steel Wheels” Tour (1989). These sets incorporated large scenic pieces and props that mimiced the scale of their venues in stadiums all over the world. In 1994, he left Fisher Park Partnership to form his own design firm, Stufish.

Pink Floyd's "The Wall"
Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”
The Rolling Stones "Steel Wheels"
The Rolling Stones “Steel Wheels”

He began working with U2 in 1992 on their “Zoo TV” tour, which traveled an enormous set, trabant cars, and a tv station around the world. In 1997, he gained a tremendous amount of notoriety in his field when, with lighting designer Willie Williams, he introduced the first massive LED video wall to the touring industry on U2’s “Popmart”. One wonders what the reactions were in the production meeting where Mark proposed that the band enter for their encore in a giant, spinning, lemon mirror ball. “Popmart” perfectly illustrated the ridiculous excesses the band wanted to make fun of at the time.

Popmart by Day
Popmart by Day
Popmart by Night
Popmart by Night

“Popmart” set the bar very high in the concert industry. Many wondered how he would top it. After two relatively stripped down arena tours (“Elevation” and “Vertigo”) Mark’s work with U2 culminated in the “360 Tour” which is the largest touring production on record. The scale of 360 was unprecented and required a massive structure to support it, which he designed.  I had the opportunity to hear Willie Williams (Mark’s design partner for that tour) discuss the genesis of the structure. He said that the band wanted the space to feel intimate, which is obviously a huge challenge in a stadium. What eventually became obvious after much discussion and drawing was that the only way to make the stadium intimate was to create a structure that appeared at home within it. This led to the development of the mammoth superstructure known as “The Claw”. And it turns out they were right. In the middle of these massive stadiums sat this enormous structure, which then appeared to cradle the band, offering them up to their fans. It was an astounding feat of art, architecture, and engineering.

Mark Fisher with The Claw
Mark Fisher with The Claw
u2's "360 Tour"
U2’s “360 Tour”

He has also worked recently with Madonna and Lady Gaga, designing their touring spectacles.

Madonna's "MDNA" Tour
Madonna’s “MDNA” Tour
Lady Gaga's "Born This Way Ball" Tour
Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way Ball” Tour

He is represented in Las Vegas currently by “Million Dollar Piano” and the stunning “KA”. Again, with “KA,” which I’ve been able to see twice and to tour backstage, it wasn’t just about the scale, which is overwhelming, but what the set could do; how it morphed through the show and how it provided this entirely immersive environment for the story to unfold.

Elton John's "Million Dollar Piano"
Elton John’s “Million Dollar Piano”
Cirque du Soleil's "KA"
Cirque du Soleil’s “KA”

Within just the past few years, he has been responsible for the design of the Queens Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the 2010 Asian Games, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, as well as the Big O Multimedia Lagoon in South Korea, Aquamatrix in Lisbon, and the Millennium Show in London, among many, many others.

The Millennium Dome Show
The Millennium Dome Show
Beijing Olympics 2008
Beijing Olympics 2008

Mark and his associates at Stufish, his company, took on these gigantic projects and managed to make it look easy. While the scale was huge, it was always approachable, refined, and elegantly executed, which is quite an accomplishment. Mark has inspired countless production designers; his influence on the concert industry is profound and will echo through the business for years.

At the time of his death, Mark was working on numerous projects around the world. There was still so much more he wanted us to see. I’m deeply saddened that I never got to meet him. To shake his hand. To say thank you for creating work that astounded. Delighted. Surprised. Amazed. Overwhelmed. Inspired awe. Made me think differently. Made we want to be a better designer.

Perhaps more than anything else, I will always think of him as someone who was open to the power of wonder.

Rest in Peace, Mark.

U2's "360"
U2’s “360”
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