Zadar. Greeting to the Sun, with the Music of the Sea

It looks like a huge disco floor placed right near the water of the Adriatic sea: this is the Greeting to the Sun, playing from dusk til dawn playful colourful lights generated by solar panels.

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At the end of Zadar’s southern seaside promenade, this remarkable installation of 22 metres in diameter is made out of 300 photo-sensitive glass plates that absorb daylight and transform it into a wondrous show at night. The photovoltaic cells that power 10,000 bulbs light up at night in a programmed light show that echoes and complements the colors of the sunset. The light show is coordinated, via a computer, with the sounds emanating from the Sea Organ, an adjacent installation that enhances the sounds of the sea waves. The Greeting to the Sun also generates enough solar power to light up the entire waterfront.

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The Sea Organ and the Greeting to the Sun art installations were created by architect Nikola Bašić and they have enlivened the city waterfront of Zadar in the most entertaining way. Both have one thing in common: nature. Without the sea or the sun, neither would work.

The Sea Organ

Comprising 35 pipes fitted into the pavement, the Sea Organ emits unworldly noises whose tone and strength are powered by the waves. The movement of the waves pushes air through the 35 pipes and makes them whistle. The pipes are hidden in marble staircase, each one is tuned differently, and sometimes can be quite loud. The sound comes out from two lines of holes on the pier.

 

This is not the first sea organ built in the world. The first one was created by Peter Richards in San Francisco, in 1986. Still, the Zadar sea organ excels for its formal simplicity. The steps allow the dissolution of the border between land and water and preserve a dilated transit space between the two. In that way the promenade is almost like a kind of a large, planar, beach of stone, summoning, like any other beach, the coming and going of the waves. The Sea Organ is the perfect grandstand for watching the sunset over the sea and the outline of the neighbouring island of Ugljan, while listening to the musical compositions played by the sea itself. The project was awarded the European Prize for Urban Space in 2006.

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The Greeting to the Sun

The installation is a representation of the solar system and is also driven by the sun. It is composed by 8 + 1 walkable surfaces representing the Solar System, and the size of the planets are proportional, but not the distance between them: the main circle represents the Sun, and it is composed by solar powered modules with a lighting system. The modules catch the sunlight during the day and, when the night comes, the installation shows a performance of lights created by a computer that generates random patterns of lights. The Greeting to the Sun has further interaction possibilities such as the customization of the pattern, creating logos or even texts. The work can be used for special events to recreate specific lighting shows or to be synchronized with the Sea Organ to represent the waves’ movement. The work is both a visual example of renewable energy and a nod at local history: around the circle edge, the names relate to the astronomical calendar drawn up in Zadar in the 13th century.

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The Historical Calendar

The names and numbers carved on the ring surrounding the installation on the waterfront – Momentum to the Sun – are part of the St. Grisogonus Calendar, developed in Zadar and found in 1964 in the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

It dates from 1292 or 1293, and is among the oldest of such documents in the world, and possibly the first to have astronomy data written in Arabic numbers. Besides the calendar with the feast days and names of saints, it also has the astronomy part which shows the sun ephemerides, the coordinates of the heavenly bodies, their angle distances from determined immovable flat surfaces, straight lines or points.

 

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