Monday, September 3, 2018

On Exhibit - Round Tower

The Rundetårn (Round Tower) is definitely a must‐see stop for anyone travelling to København (Copenhagen). The tower is part of the Trinitatis Complex. When it was built in the 1600's, it provided the scholars of the time with a university chapel, an academic library, and an observatory. Historians generally accept that Hans van Steenwinckel the Younger was charged by Christian 4 with a commission to design the new edifice, although he (Hans) did not live to see the tower completed.  Construction began on November 24, 1636. In 1642, the tower was completed. The church and library were completed in 1657. 

Click on the above image to see a close-up of it.

Instead of putting in stairs, the architect designed a spiral ramp to form the only access way to the tower-top observatory. The ramp is 210 m long and climbs 3.74 m per turn. Along the outer wall, the corridor has a length of 257.5 m and a grade of 10%. Along the wall of the inner core, the corridor is only 85.5 m long but has a grade of 33%. The ramp turns 7.5 times around a hollow masonry core. On the way up, you pass doors leading to the Library Hall as well as the Ringer's Loft above the church. This design allows a horse and carriage to reach the library, making it easy for scholars of the 17th century to move books in and out of the library, as well as to transport heavy instruments up to the observatory.

Not only does the hollow core provide the load bearing structure for the tower, but it also solved one of the problems perplexing the designers of the day: how to provide toilet facilities. These facilities, used by the researchers and astronomers working in the tower, consisted of a seat almost at the top of the tower, and a shaft leading down through the tower's hollow core to the very bottom floor. This shaft has no way of emptying, nor is there any ventilation to the outside! It is one giant septic tank!

Another item of note is the Rundetårn Unicycle Race. Held every spring, contestants go up and then down the ramp on a unicycle. The world record, set in 1988, is 1 minute and 48.7 seconds.

Not surprisingly, the Round Tower plays an important part in Danish cultural references:

  • In Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale The Tinder Box, the largest of the three dogs is said to have eyes as large as the Round Tower at Copenhagen.
  • In another Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, The Elder-Tree Mother, an old married couple remembers how they went "up the Round Tower, and looked down on Copenhagen, and far, far away over the water; then we went to Friedericksberg, where the King and the Queen were sailing about in their splendid barges!"
  • The asteroid 5505 Rundetårn commemorates the tower.
  • In Denmark, heights of buildings are often compared to the height of the Rundetårn.
  • A phrase in Danish is "Which is highest, the Rundetårn or a crash of thunder?" (loud and high are the same word in Danish). It is often used in a discussion when someone tries to compare incomparable quantities. In English we would use the phrase "comparing apples and oranges."

When I toured the Round Tower, I was struck by the tonal qualities of the light on the inside. Light from the windows on the outer wall make for wonderful shades of grey on the white walls inside, with the ramp providing a stern, dark base.

I tried to figure out how to capture this during my walk up the ramp, but didn't come up with an answer. It wasn't until my descent that I figured out that I needed an extreme wide-angle composition.

Finding a suitable location wasn't easy. I needed a mix of light and dark, in a geometry that was pleasing to the eye. I needed windows on the left and the right, but not behind me, for they would make for an evenly lit interior with no shadows to create the moodiness I wanted. I found only one such place, which is the location in the photograph.

With a composition set, I then needed to wait for all the visitors walking up and down the ramp to be out of the frame. I waited nearly an hour to make this capture, and even then I had scant seconds before the next party entered the frame on their way up. In fact, the party leaving the frame cast a shadow back into this photo, in what I call The Ghost of the Round Tower! Can you see it?

This image is on display at the Artpoint Studio and Galleries in the Members Exhibit during the month of September.

Artpoint is located at:

1139 11 St SE,
Calgary, AB
T2G 3G1

A link to the Google Map location is here.

The print on display is about 100 cm wide (40"), so it shows all of the interesting detail in the image. I made the print using archival, high dynamic range pigment inks on a 100% cotton rag fine art paper that is acid, lignin, and chlorine free. It is also pH buffered with calcium carbonate for a true archival sheet. I love this paper for its extremely high colour gamut and deep black density. The folks at 17th Avenue Framing did the matting and the framing using archival acid-free mats and museum grade, anti-reflective 99% UV ray protection glass.

I hope you are able to get to Artpoint sometime in September and have a look at the print. It has much more impact in person than it does on a computer screen.

In conjunction with this exhibit, I am offering a show special through my on-line store. Use the discount code Eyeconic2018

I have two other prints on display at this exhibit. You can read about these images here (Carbonear Island) and here (Mount Fuji).

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