Sundial Park Genk

3. Horizontal park sundial

Horizontal park dial

Hour point for 14 hr: intense colors Horizontal square or park dials sometimes look a bit barren, when hour lines or hour points were laid out flush. The circle of 21 bluestone blocks gives this park dial 'sculptural presence'. Fifteen pillars hold the hour points, from 5 to 19 hr local time. The other six carry seats, which invite the visitor to sit down and contemplate the transience of time, one's insignificance in view of the cosmos, or just to enjoy the sunshine, the birds singing and the children playing.
Note: the high pole in the background at right in the above picture is not a sundial, but a lamppost.

The ceramic strips capping the hour posts are tuned to the time of day: changing from greyish and bluish in early morning to intense in the afternoon and darkening towards dusk.
The pole-style rises over 3 meter (11 ft) into the sky from its greenery. The diameter of the hour ring is 9 m (30 ft).

The sundial has been designed by ceramics artist Jeanne Opgenhaffen (Belgium).

My comments:

An artistic design!

From an artistic point of view, this is one of the nicest objects in the Park. Some square or park dials do have embellishments added. The natural integration of gnomonic and park elements into the stone circle here reveals a genuinely artistic mind. A gnomonist would, for instance, most probably have used 24 stone posts, no less or more.

Construction flaws

Shortly after the inauguration, word had it that the sundial did not function correctly. What could be wrong? There had been problems laying out the true meridian. Or the pole-style could be sagging because of the swampy soil. The actual reason appeared to be the inaccurate placement of the hour posts, as is evident in the picture below. The distance between the 10 and 11 hr posts is too small, the spacing of the 12 and 13 hr posts too large, etc. The contractor did a sloppy job!

Incorrect spacing of hour points

Where to read the hour? Reading problems

This dial does not have hour lines, as most horizontal dials do, but only hour points. The use of vertical posts introduces a problem of how to read the time. Except at local noon, the shadow of the pole-style will fall obliquely on the post, as in the picture here. When is it exactly 11 hr? When the shadow hits the center of the colored strips? Or the number 11? Or perhaps the center of the bottom of the post, where an imaginary hour line might be ending?

The leaning pole-style

Supported pole-style at Menkema Manor Most horizontal garden-style dials have a triangular gnomon, the inclined side of which serves as pole-style. In contrast, most square or park dials I have seen have a relatively thin pole-style, sticking freely into the air. Why? From a construction point of view, this is an unfavorable condition. The eccentric load tries to sag the style, so that a heavy, expensive foundation is needed. Nevertheless, supported pole-styles are rare. One nice example is found in the gardens of Menkema Manor in Uithuizen (Netherlands).

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