The Clockmaker’s College

Project Requirements: As part of their current modernisation and refurbishment programme, City University would like to commission a piece of public art that will sit outside the front doors to its main Northampton Sq campus. This piece of public art needs to do several things. Firstly, it needs to provide a way finding and landmark function, secondly provide seating and a communal gathering area and lastly to become an unofficial symbol of City University and the site for photo opportunities when students graduate.

The client met David Harber at Chelsea Flower Show 2012 and it was established that in its early days, City University was in fact a Clockmaking School, which has obvious parallels to David Harber’s background and work.

The brief quickly took shape. It was decided that whilst a contemporary and modern looking piece was desirable, the sculpture should also reference and hark back to City University’s clock making roots and engineering prowess.

The Proposed Concepts: The First concept which was explored was a stack of boulders, alternating between stone and polished stainless steel. It was felt that this was going too far down the contemporary route and not giving enough attention to the clock making and engineering components of the brief.

The next two proposed concepts were two variations of an elegant, contemporary sundial, with a ‘nodding top’ pendulum which also acts as a clock. These variations both provide seating and a landmark function. Both pieces act as a Gnomon, casting a shadow onto the ground, the oldest type of sundial known to man.

The nodding top pendulum hints at the piece’s function as a clock, and the clockface could be included into the vertical surfaces of the piece. Visually, the polished sphere at the top will give a beautiful 360o view of the front of both the building and Northampton Square.

A secondary proposal: As a secondary proposal to consider, there is also an opportunity to place a sculptural seating feature in the window overlooking the park in the middle of Northampton Square. This piece needs to be functional and robust to withstand the rigours of high volumes of foot traffic over its lifetime. It also needs to be a relatively simple structure to fill the not insignificant space yet come in at budget.

David proposes to create a simple, clean lined seating structure constructed from man-made materials over a metal frame. Whilst simple and elegant, the piece will also provide visual interest and remain versatile enough to be adapted, decorated and detailed when further along the design process.