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  Len Lye: Water Whirler

Len Lye: Water Whirler. Image courtesy of Mark Coote Photographer

Presented to the city in 2006. Water Whirler was commissioned by the Wellington Sculpture Trust, in association with Wellington Waterfront, with funds from the NZ Lottery Grants Board, and other donors including ECC Lighting. It was manufactured and installed by the Technix Group of New Plymouth under the instruction of the Len Lye Foundation.

The purpose-built pier where it is located juts into Wellington Harbour off the Waterfront promenade running alongside Frank Kitts Park. The pier was designed by Athfield Architects Ltd, built by Fletcher Construction and financed by Wellington Waterfront Ltd.

The Len Lye Foundation which holds the drawings, designs and other intellectual property of the late Len Lye was commissioned to manage the construction of Water Whirler, which has never been built before. The Foundation had previously successfully built and installed another major posthumous work of Len Lye, the Wind Wand in New Plymouth.

The technological challenges of construction were high. The central tube of Water Whirler needs a difficult combination of rigidity, to remain upright, and flexibility, to bend as it rotates and oscillates on its axis. The mechanism that drives and controls the tube at just the right frequency, is unusual in its design and includes several unique features . Motors, springs, pivots and weights control the movement of the tube and were designed together with a computor programme to manage or “choreograph” the movement and water patterns. The tube is hollow with carefully tuned nozzles on its exterior to allow water to be pumped up and out of the work.

Above all, the mechanism, including the tube and the nozzles, has to perform in a manner that preserves Len Lye’s intention for Water Whirler which he described as; “a fantastic choreography, jet-streams fling their spray, in three dimensions”.

Water Whirler 'plays' in 12 minute cycles, on the hour at 10a.m, 11a.m, 12 noon, 1p.m and 3p.m; and again at 6p.m, 8p.m, 9p.m and 10p.m. It operates in winds of up to 20 knots.

 

 

 


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