This kinetic sculpture was commissioned by a private client in Switzerland to coincide with The Museum of Modern Art's solo exhibition of Calatrava's work in the autumn of 1992. The idea for the sculpture originated in 1988 as a project for the Swissbau Concrete Pavilion in Basel. Here, Calatrava took the experiment a step further. Twelve slender 'fingers' made of molded pre-cast concrete, each eight-meter long and weighs 600 kilograms were mounted on a rear support panel. Naturally tinted through the use of white sand in the aggregate, the concrete elements were supported from a base weighing thirty tons, which was lifted as one piece over the wall of the museum's Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. A socket cast into each finger engaged a ball, which was set into the end of the protruding supports.
This ball-and-socket structure allows each finger to have full articulated motion, powered by eccentric drives mounted on the rear panel. A progressive change in the angle of engagement with an endless chain produced a staggered, synchronized motion. Due to the direct connection between the finger and the eccentric drive socket, the full circular motion of the drive was transmitted to the tips. Seen as an ensemble, the concrete elements had a form that was reminiscent of a weeping willow tree. Visitors to the Sculpture Garden found it surprising to see a massive, concrete structures made into something that appeared to be light and gentle. But in its ultimate effect, the movement of the fingers was even more insubstantial. As a result of the motion, a continual play of shadows was cast onto the base of the sculpture.
1992 - 1993
The Museum of Modern Art
11 W 53rd St
New York, NY 10019