Posts Tagged ‘The Netherlands’

Needle Tower

The destination of today’s lunchtime bike ride was Needle Tower, a public artwork by Kenneth Duane Snelson, an American contemporary sculptor and photographer.  The 60-foot abstract sculpture of steel wires and aluminum tubes is on display outside of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, which is located just off the National Mall at Independence Avenue and 7th Street (MAP) in southwest D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood. 

At first glance it seems improbable that Needle Tower can even remain upright.  But the aluminum tubes of the slim and graceful piece act in compression, and held in tension by the stainless steel cables threaded through in the ends of the aluminum tubes.

Snelson’s works often center around or incorporate geometric shapes.  And this piece is a good example of that.  The tower itself is interesting.  But looking up from the inside of Needle Tower is where it really impresses.  I see Stars of David getting progressively smaller in a seemingly endless procession ascending into the sky, symbolizing the infinite nature of the universe.  According to Snelson, however, six-pointed stars are common, and the piece does not include the Star of David nor is it symbolic.  In Needle Tower the six pointedness comes from the natural geometry of the three compression struts that make up each layer.  Sets of three alternate with left and right helical modules, adding up to six when viewed upwards from the base of the tower.

The structure was built in 1968, and has been on continuous display since the museum’s namesake, Joseph Hirshhorn, donated it in 1974. It remains one of the museum’s most popular works of art.  Needle Tower is so popular, in fact, that it was placed in its central spot outside the museum so that when tourists pass by on their way to and from nearby museums and attractions, it draws their attention to both the piece and the Hirshhorn.

A second Needle Tower, Needle Tower II, was completed in 1968 and was acquired in 1971 by the Kröller-Müller Museum in the Netherlands. That piece resides in the museum’s sculpture garden.  And I look forward to seeing it on my next bike ride to the Netherlands.

[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

There are many libraries in the nation’s capitol.  There are municipal libraries, law libraries, and specialty libraries like The Folger Shakespeare Library.  The largest library in the world, The Library of Congress, is also located in D.C.  But there is one very popular library that has no books, and it is officially named The Floral Library.

On a recent bike ride I visited The Floral Library.  But it is better known during this time of the year as “The Tulip Library” because the entire garden is replanted each spring with over 10,000 tulip bulbs that are flown in from Holland and the Netherlands.  Often never known about until accidentally stumbled upon, “The Library” is a secret garden hiding in plain sight.  It is located on Independence Avenue in southwest D.C. between The Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial just north of the Tidal Basin (MAP).

The Library was first planted back in 1969 as part of First Lady “Lady Bird” Johnson’s Capital Beautification Project through the Society for a More Beautiful National Capital. Their goal was to improve physical conditions in D.C., for both residents and tourists by planting millions of flowers.  Her beliefs regarding the importance of national beautification can best be summarized in her statement that “where flowers bloom, so does hope.”

The Library is currently maintained by the National Mall and Memorial Parks Department of the National Park Service.  Over the years, The Library has become a popular place to make comparisons of color and shape between different types of tulips planted in individually numbered beds.  There are separate beds each showcasing one of the 95 varieties of tulips, planted in groups of 100 to 200, that can be seen at The Library.

Both professional and amateur photographers alike can be seen taking photographs at The Library, as well as small groups of tourists who cab be found meandering through the rows of tulips and stopping to admire some of the more exotic varieties that they don’t see in their neighbors’ gardens back home.  Also, adjacent to The Library is a large, open grassy area perfect for picnics or an afternoon of people-watching.

Although they are not as transient as D.C.’s springtime cherry blossoms, the tulips at The Library will be gone shortly.  The tulip season in the D.C. area lasts only from early April to the first week of May, so plan to visit The Library soon.   And plan to go back again in a few months, because during the summer the library of tulips are replaced with an annual planting of annuals.   A third planting of chrysanthemums is available for viewing in the fall of each year.


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