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'Wavehenge' Sundial Amphitheater

PUBLIC INSTALLATION IN RIVERSIDE PARK

2019
Steel, wood

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Installation: May 22, 2019
60ft x 30ft x 13ft (18m x 9m x 4m)

A commission from the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and the Art Students League of New York's Model to Monument fellowship program for large-scale public art.

My guiding principle was to make it interactive - something that works with the space to enhance the environment. Something that people will appreciate. A unique place to sit by the river and take in the view.

- Damon Hamm, 2016

Description:

Most people’s first view of this stretch of Riverside Park North is from 70 feet above as they near the stairs leading down from the elevated park above. Another noticeable thing about this site is the lack of seating, shade, or places to congregate; all important considerations for a public piece of art.

Access to such a unique aerial viewpoint was a major point of inspiration for developing the concept. The sundial consists of a vertical cresting wave surrounded by benches that match the shape of the shadow as it moves across each day. And from 70 feet up, the vision of a clock-face starts to emerge.

The benches were designed like floating ‘rafts’, bobbing in the wake of a cresting wave. And their shape holds a secret…

On each solstice and equinox, the shadow and benches align.

But doesn’t the shadow move throughout the day?  Yes!
So on a solstice or equinox, what TIME will it align? When the time equals the date!

The shadow on the 4 different days at the 4 different times.

The shadow will land exactly on the outline of one ‘raft’ when the hour and minute of the day matches the month and day of the year.
For example, the Winter Solstice occurs on December 21st, or 12/21, so the shadow will align perfectly with the ‘raft’ that is due north at 12:21pm on 12/21.

The dates and times are (clockwise from left):
Autumn Equinox = 09/22 @ 09:22am
Winter Solstice = 12/21 @12:21pm
Spring Equinox = 03/20 @ 03:20pm
Summer Solstice = 06/21 @ 06:21pm

 

How does one arrive at such a design? RESEARCH!

Sculptural Sun Dial Shadow Study #1
3D simulations showing the shadow’s movement on the solstices and equinoxes. Surprising results!

Sculptural Sun Dial Shadow Study #2
4 3D sun simulations using one specific time of day as the seasons vary. 
All 4 times were then overlaid just for visual effect.

 

Early concept models of the sculptural sundial seating.

Early concept models of the sculptural sundial seating.

 

Worried that the nearby 70 foot-tall Riverbank Park building would cast ITS OWN SHADOW over our sculpture below, this simulation shows where in the park the sculpture could go, or more importantly, could not go.

the nuts and bolts…

The dates and times shift due to our 365 ¼ day solar years, so the dates are calculated from the average over the past 100 years:

Well that’s magical…

These dates are also the cardinal points for the astrological zodiac, with the sun in zero degrees...

 

Idea Evolution:

One of Jeff's early 'line gestures' that inspired me to focus on working in the horizontal plane through shadow. Sculpture: Jeff Sundheim, Photo: Damon Hamm.

One of Jeff's early 'line gestures' that inspired me to focus on working in the horizontal plane through shadow. Sculpture: Jeff Sundheim, Photo: Damon Hamm.

The New York Parks Department had decided that the theme this year was "Wave". Each artist then embarked on designing individual expressions and interpretations of what 'wave' means to them - waves of immigration, waving hello, cyclic nature, harnessing the wind, etc.

Halfway through the year the Art Students League Model to Monument program director Greg Wyatt decided to have the artists attempt to merge their 6 separate sculptures into 3 two-person team collaborations. Needless to say, not a trivial ask. In fact, 3 of the 7 artists were unable to meet the challenge and dropped out of the program - a first in M2M history.

My assigned design partner, Jeff Sundheim, had been exploring spiral line gestures, and seeing no way to merge my many previous iterations, my inspiration came from noticing the shadows that one of Jeff's sculptures cast onto the table.

Isolating the shadow effect really brought out some interesting forms. 

Note: All images, video, and 3D renderings shown are of my own creation and are my contribution to the collaboration, except where noted.

 

An early exploration of the ground elements using a mobile phone flashlight to simulate the arc of the sun. Upright portion: Jeff Sundheim, Shadow rings, photo: Damon Hamm

An early exploration of the ground elements using a mobile phone flashlight to simulate the arc of the sun. Upright portion: Jeff Sundheim, Shadow rings, photo: Damon Hamm

Upright Wave

Knowing that any horizontal shadows would be dependent upon the final upright wave's form, I created the following 'wave' explorations as design inspirations for Jeff to add his spin.

An early exploration of the upright portion. Sculpture, photo: Damon Hamm

An early exploration of the upright portion. Sculpture, photo: Damon Hamm

The final upright design I created including the spiral motif that Jeff had been working with. Sculpture, photo: Damon Hamm

The final upright design I created including the spiral motif that Jeff had been working with. Sculpture, photo: Damon Hamm

Scale model showing my version of the upright wave with early 'shadow 'bench' placement sketches to show the concept.

Scale model showing my version of the upright wave with early 'shadow 'bench' placement sketches to show the concept.

Scale model showing another of version of the upright wave created in collaboration with Jeff Sundheim.

Scale model showing another of version of the upright wave created in collaboration with Jeff Sundheim.

A later scale model with bench forms and the upright wave form evolved by Jeff. Benches: Damon Hamm, Upright wave, photo: Jef Sundheim.

A later scale model with bench forms and the upright wave form evolved by Jeff. Benches: Damon Hamm, Upright wave, photo: Jef Sundheim.

My layout calculations for fabrication.

My layout calculations for fabrication.

The view people would see entering the site. Viewers enter from 70 feet above, through the nearby park situated on top of a water treatment plant. Background image courtesy of  Google Maps .

The view people would see entering the site. Viewers enter from 70 feet above, through the nearby park situated on top of a water treatment plant. Background image courtesy of Google Maps.

 

Shadow Benches in progress, from left to right: Winter Solstice, Summer Solstice, and Spring Equinox (completed). The teak looks better than expected and I can't wait to see the wood and Corten steel once weathered in a year or so.

Shadow Benches in progress, from left to right: Winter Solstice, Summer Solstice, and Spring Equinox (completed). The teak looks better than expected and I can't wait to see the wood and Corten steel once weathered in a year or so.

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