Photo By: Jonathan Brennan
Earth Hall, Natural History Museum, London
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.
The Astronomer, 1668
oil on canvas, 51 cm x 45 cm (20 x 18 in), Louvre, Paris
Portrayals of scientists were a favourite topic in 17th century Dutch painting and Vermeer’s oeuvre includes both this astronomer and the slightly later The Geographer. Both are believed to portray the same man, possibly Antonie van Leeuwenhoek.
The astronomer sits at a table, bending forward to turn the celestial globe. Above the cupboard are at least ten books of various sizes, and attached to the front is a curious diagram with a large circle and two smaller circles in the upper corners, all with ‘hands’, but its significance is obscure. On the wall is a painting of ‘The Finding of Moses’ (upper right), which reappears in Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid (right).
The celestial globe, which sits on a four-legged grand, was first published by Jodocus Hondius in Amsterdam in 1600.
In Vermeer’s painting the constellations on the upper half of the globe which face the viewer include the Great Bear on the left, the Dragon and Hercules in the centre, and Lyra on the right.
On the table lies an open book (lower right). The presence of an illustration on the left-hand page has made it possible to identify the text as the second edition of Adriaen Metius’s On the lnvestigation or Observation of the Stars, published in Amsterdam in 1621. Vermeer has reproduced the first two pages of section 111. The text on the right-hand page explains how ‘one can learn to measure in the sky through certain geometrical instruments the situation the stars have in accordance with their longitude and latitude’. Below the globe lies a brass astrolabe, an instrument used in navigation and for measuring the position of celestial bodies, similar to that shown in the illustration on the left-hand page of the open book.
The Geographer, 1668-1669
oil on canvas, 20 7/8 x 18 1/4 in., Stadesches Kunstinistitut, Frankfut am Main
Dressed in a Japanese-style robe popular among scholars at that rime, the geographer is someone excited by intellectual inquiry. Surrounded by maps, charts, books, and a globe, he rests one hand on a book and holds dividers with the other. As opposed to the women in Vermeer’s paintings, who are quiet and self-contained, the geographer’s active stance indicates an alert, penetrating mind. Vermeer not only captured the scholar’s energy, he surrounded him with accurately rendered cartographic objects appropriate for a geographer’s study.
The decorative sea chart on the rear wall, showing “all the Sea coasts of Europe,” is by Willem Janz.. Blaeu. Hendrick Hondius’ terrestrial globe (right), which rests on the cabinet in its four-legged stand, is turned to reveal the Indian Ocean, the route taken by the Dutch to reach China and Japan. Other instruments include the dividers, used to mark distances a square lying on the stool in the foreground and a cross-staff, used to measure the angle of the elevation of the sun and stars, hanging from the center post of the window. Among the various rolled charts in the room, the large one on the table is probably a nautical chart made of vellum.