Phenometer

Ed Andrews
Phenometer
52’ x 42”dia.
stainless steel, aluminum, neon, on-board computer
Socrates Sculpture Park, Long Island City, NY

Phenometer was designed and fabricated in 1985. The freestanding armature is a fifty-foot tall, prefabricated, radio tower. Twenty circular aluminum platforms are evenly spaced and horizontally attached to the tower. Hundreds of stainless steel channels pivot from the platforms and are balanced so that they are activated by natural currents of wind. The stainless channels are highly reflective and create patterns of reflected sunlight that rotate around the base of the tower.

An anemometer is located at the top of the tower and creates a magnetic pulse each time it rotates in the wind. This random pulse enters an on-board computer, at the base of the tower, and is the heart of Phenometer’s nighttime performance. The computer translates the wind speed and then switches twenty circles of white neon that are attached to the underside of each of the aluminum platforms. A grouping of three neon circles is sequentially switched off and appear to move down the tower (“dark-chase”) as the wind turns the anemometer. The faster the wind blows, the faster the neon is switched and animated.

Phenometer was first erected in McClean, Virginia where it was installed for three years. Phenometer was then selected, as part of a national invitational, to be exhibited at Socrates Sculpture Park, along the East River in, New York, in 1990. The piece was well received in New York and remained at the park for two years.  Phenometer is also included in Socrates Sculpture Park, published by Yale University Press 2006

My intention was to create a responsive system that would combine the intangible phenomenon of wind and light into a simple, but dynamic, visual experience. The scale of Phenometer was inspired by the height of a forest of pine trees that surrounded the tower at the original Virginia site. The Endless Column profile was not initially intended, but resulted from trying to solve a glitch in the mechanical design. I chose to leave the historical reference in homage to Brancusi.