Archive for the Sundials of Note category

September 21st, 2007

Equinox in Ireland

Posted in equinox, Sundials of Note by Heidi

Loughcrew in one of many examples of very, very old structures that are built to align with sunrise or sunset of the solstices or equinoxes during the year. At dawn on the equinox (which this year is on Sept 23) the sun shines through a passageway under the cairn-mound and onto an intricately carved back stone.


September 19th, 2007

Tower of Radkan

The Tower of Radkan is a solar observatory built in 1261AD by Khajeh Nasir Tusi’s group in Iran. Extensive information on how it works is available at

Tower of Radkan

September 17th, 2007

Jantar Mantar

Between 1727 and 1734 Maharajah Jai Singh II of Jaipur constructed five astronomical observatories in west central India. The observatories, or “Jantar Mantars”, incorporate multiple buildings of unique form, each with a specialized function for astronomical measurement, and which are fantastic sculptures in their own right. Visit the extensive documentary project initiated by Barry Perlus at Cornell U. for excellent interactive panoramic ‘VR’ photos, time lapse sequences, 3D models, ‘spherical rendering’ photographs, and lots of other research.

Jaipur Observatory - Perlus

[photo-Perlus, capture from VR photo ‘Jai Prakash’]

September 12th, 2007


Uraniborg proved drafty, which disturbed instrument accuracy, and so Tycho Brahe designed and built a largely underground observatory next door to Uraniborg in 1584.


Stjerneborg now-ish:

More info:

September 11th, 2007


Operated by Tycho Brahe in the late 1500s, Uraniborg was the first building ever designed with astronomical observations as its primary design criteria. The towers and balconies were to serve as instrument platforms, and the rooms in the main building were to house Tycho and his family, visiting astronomers, visiting royalty, and students. The alchemical laboratory was in the basement. The orientation of the building was chosen for maximum coverage of the sky with the instruments. Uraniborg was located in the very middle of large walled an intricate garden–In addition to being decorative, the gardens also supplied herbs for the Tycho’s medicinal chemistry experiments. Note sundial in garden, left of castle. More info.


August 23rd, 2007

‘Star Axis’

Star Axis is an architectonic earth/star sculpture constructed with the geometry of the stars; earth-to-star alignments built to human scale–at its outside dimensions, Star Axis will be 11 stories high and 1/10th of a mile across.. The sculpture’s name refers to its primary earth/star alignment. It is precisely aligned with Earth’s axis, which now points toward our north star Polaris. The approach to developing Star Axis involves gathering a variety of star alignments occurring in different time scales and allowing them to inform the architecture.

This earthwork has five main elements. The Solar Pyramid marks the daily and seasonal movements of the sun across the Shadow Field. From inside the Hour Chamber one hour of Earth’s rotation can be viewed, and from inside the Equatorial Chamber the stars that travel directly above the equator can be observed. The Star Tunnel is precisely aligned with Earth’s axis. Here the viewer can walk through layers of celestial time, making directly visible the 26,000-year cycle of precession, Earth’s shifting alignment with the stars.

Star Axis is a project by the artist Charles Ross. It was conceived in 1971 and is presently being constructed on a mesa in New Mexico.

Star Axis

August 7th, 2007

Bridge as Sundial

Posted in Sundials of Note by Heidi

The Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay crosses the Sacramento River in the heart of Redding, California. Opened July 4, 2004, the bridge links the north and south campuses of Turtle Bay Exploration Park and serves as a new downtown entrance for Redding’s extensive Sacramento River Trail system. It was designed by Spanish architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava.

Turtle Bay Bridge

July 29th, 2007

Atlas’s Burden an Armillary Sphere

Posted in digressions, NYC, Sundials of Note by Heidi

Atlas, photo credit: Colin Gregory Palmer, from Wikipedia

Rockefeller Center, opposite St. Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Ave. in NYC.
Lee Lawrie and Rene Chambellan, installed in 1937.

From The Art of Rockefeller Center by Christine Roussel:

“Atlas had waged and lost a ten-year war against the gods of Mount Olympus. As punishment, the gods condemned Atlas to support the earth and the heavens on his back for eternity. He had grown weary of the task and was only too glad when Hercules offered to take over his burden. In turn, Hercules said he needed help to complete his eleventh labor, fetching the Golden Apples, which were closely guarded by nymphs called the Hesperides. Prometheus had told Hercules that Atlas could easily complete this labor as he was the nymphs’ father and knew their secrets. When Atlas returned with the apples, Hercules tricked him into resuming the burden of bearing the earth and the heavens on his back for eternity. This statue depicts that never-ending punishment.

The twenty-one-foot-diameter, openwork sphere bears the signs of the zodiac, and its axis points to the North Star. . . . The celestial sphere indicates the earth’s path around the sun, the change of the earth’s axis on its orbit, and the equinoxes.”

July 20th, 2007

Another giant corporate sundial building

Posted in digressions, Sundials of Note by Heidi

‘Team Disney’ – Corporate offices for Disney, near Orlando, Florida, Arata Isozaki architect. Sundial built into center cylinder, on interior and exterior. More images and sundial details . . .

Team Disney

Team Disney interior

May 21st, 2007

Sundial ghost at Columbia U.

Posted in NYC, Sundials of Note by Heidi

Columbia University had a spherical sundial in the center of campus. It was removed in 1946 after some cracks made its structural integrity questionable. Thought to have been destroyed after removal, recently the sphere has inexplicably resurfaced in Michigan. Here are images of the this sundial as depicted in a vintage postcard, and the same spot today.

Columbia’s sundial - vintage postcard

Columbia’s sundial - today

More info:
Columbia sundial history
116th was Gnomon’s Land