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Gnomon (Sundial)

PUBLIC INSTALLATION IN RIVERSIDE PARK

2018
Steel, wood

90ft x 60ft x 13ft (28m x 18m 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. How about a giant sundial?

- Damon Hamm, 2016

Installation: May 22, 2019

The view people would see entering the site. Viewers enter from 70 feet above, through Riverbank State Park planted on the roof 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 Riverbank State Park planted on the roof of a water treatment plant. Background image courtesy of Google Maps.

Description:

Most people’s first glimpse of Riverside Park North is from 70 feet above - the entrance on top of Riverbank State Park. Access to such a unique aerial viewpoint was a focal point for the concept - a gigantic sundial made of a steel wave (the ‘gnomon’ in sun-dial speak), surrounded by benches that curve with the shape of the shadow. From 70 feet above, the vision of a clock-face starts to emerge.

With the Hudson river right there, the first thing to come to mind is a giant wave rising up, cresting above 4 ‘rafts’ that bob in its wake below. These ‘rafts’ are seating areas to lounge on, sit or read. They also hold a secret:

4 times a year, at a specific time, the shadow will perfectly align with each of the benches.

Early concept models of the sculptural sundial seating.

Early concept models of the sculptural sundial seating.

 

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.

How does one arrive at such a design? RESEARCH!

Bringing those two elements together on every solstice and equinox, the shadow will land exactly on the outline of one ‘raft’ when the hour and minute of the day (with daylight savings-time) matches the month and day of the year.

For example, the Winter Solstice occurs on December 21st, or 12/21.
So at 12:21pm on 12/21, the shadow will align perfectly with the ‘raft’ that is due north.

 

At each of the specific dates and times of year shown, the shadow of the upright portion of the sculpture will align perfectly with each of the ground forms outlined in green.

Also viewable in video form: https://youtu.be/zuDZzz-8lr8

 

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.

 

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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