Iowa Ste University – Memorial Union
Architect/designer William T. Proudfoot chose to incorporate the ancient symbols of the zodiac into the north entry floor — classic Greek/Roman mythology for a classic-Greek/Roman-style building.
In the 20s, the zodiac was not as well known as it is now. Proudfoot planned for intentional wearing away of the bronze forms by placing them above the surface of the floor – to be sculpted further by building users until, eventually, they would be the same level as the floor.
We know that by 1929, students had decided that if you stepped on the zodiac, it was unlucky – that you’d flunk your next test. Rumor has it that the students created this “curse” because they liked the raised effect of the zodiac and they wanted to preserve the zodiac signs even though it went against what the architect originally intended. Now most students, hedging their bets, walk around. If you accidently invoke the curse, you can throw a coin in the fountain to take it away!
A complete redesign and rebuilding of Oppenstein Brothers Memorial Park at 12th and Walnut in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, was dedicated on April 18, 2008. The park concept is named Celestial Flyways to celebrate the natural environment of the Kansas City area.
The park was designed by Kansas City artist Laura DeAngelis and Davison Architecture + Urban Design and was commissioned by the Art in the Loop Foundation, a metropolitan organization of business and civic leaders with a continuing mission to enhance central Kansas City with public art. This project was a cooperative venture between the city of Kansas City and Jackson Country Parks and Recreation. It required two years of work, the talents of at least 150 people at a cost of nearly $500,000, much of which was donated.
The park’s theme, Celestial Flyways, was inspired by the migratory patterns of many bird species which pass through the Kansas City area. The park design includes migratory bird routes with inlays of sixteen bird species. The arcs in the picture below represent the migratory bird routes. The park landscaping uses native prairie plants.
The centerpiece of the park is an interactive sculpture based on the anaphoric clock, a model of the sky with roots deep in antiquity. The anaphoric star disk in the park is very likely the largest and most accurate astronomical machine of this type ever made.
The anaphoric star disk consists of a 10 foot (3 m.) diameter disk containing the positions of 457 stars in 50 constellations. The stars are shown by holes in the disks filled by acrylic lenses and are lighted from below. Drawings of the mythological characters associated with the constellations are etched on the surface of the disk. Park visitors rotate the star disk to a date and time with a motor operated by buttons on the base. The mechanism is not a clock since it does not run by itself. If it were a clock, the disk would rotate once in a sidereal day.
Above the rotating star disk is a grid showing the local horizon and meridian, the celestial equator and the Tropic of Cancer. The Tropic of Capricorn is the outer diameter of the disk. The meridian is accurately oriented and the horizon corresponds to the latitude of the park at 39° 6′ North.
The base of the sculpture is decorated with ceramic representations of the Kansas City natural environment made by Laura DeAngelis.
The outer circumference of the base contains a calendar and the outer edge of the disk has a time scale. Park visitors set the disk by aligning a time with a date. Once set, the stars are positioned for that instant.
The sun’s annual path, the ecliptic, is also engraved on the disk in the form of a calendar. The sun’s position for a day corresponds to a date on the ecliptic circle.
The star disk can be set for the current date and time to see the current positions of the sun and stars, set to find the time of a celestial event, such as sunrise or sunset or set to any other date and time of interest. It is a very informative display for such a simple machine.
The anaphoric star disk required the experience, talent and effort of a large number of people. The overall design was by Laura DeAngelis with Dominique Davison. The star positions, constellation asterisms, ecliptic, time scale and calendar were computer produced by James Morrison. The constellation figures were drawn by Laura DeAngelis and Peregrine Honig. Detailed design drawings were supplied by Davison Architecture + Urban Design. The disk, grid and supporting structure were fabricated by A. Zahner Co. The star lenses were made and installed by Louis Rose. The base ceramic decoration was made and installed by Laura DeAngelis and Louis Rose.
Corrado Parducci is mostly referred to as an architectural sculptor, however, I think a proper title would simply be designer. These days, he would probably best be known as an Industrial Designer, with having designed countless commissions of architectural sculpture, interior plaster work and bronze work. Additionally, he designed hub caps for Budd Wheel, and bumper designs for Hudson Motor Car Company. In his personal time, he sculpted busts of Greek and Roman figures from antiquity, painted intricate patterns on the walls of his home and even wove tapestries.
Parducci was revered by many architects who wanted him to work on their most exclusive projects – both in Detroit, Michigan, and nationally. Because of Parducci’s training at New York’s Beaux-Arts Institute of Design (BAID) and the Arts Students League, he was able to quickly see the architect’s vision for a space. Many times, the architect would provide a set of architectural drawings to Parducci where blank spaces had been left for him to fill in his designs. By working with Parducci, this would free up the architect’s draughtsmen for other things. Prior to this, the draughtsmen would furnish full scaled drawings of sculpture, ornamentation, or even doorknobs and window casings. It’s important to remember that during the early 20th century, everything was custom made for each architectural project. There was no Sweet’s Catalogue, whereas even Parducci said, “today we design by number.”