The Light Winch

 
 
 
Daytime view of the Light Winch from the canal towpath.

Daytime view of the Light Winch from the canal towpath.

The Light Winch

Signaling time has long been an important aspect of civic structures. From the church tower and the town hall to the nautical timeball, these structures have served as beacons, transmitting time to help organise life around them.

The timeball was a device used to signal a precise moment in time to ships off-shore, allowing them to calibrate chronometers, held on board. Today we all carry a chronometer in our pockets, kept in synch by earth orbiting satellites. The Light Winch transforms the discreet drop of the timeball into oscillations, prompting an intuitive reading of time through its daily and seasonal cycles.

The Light Winch is composed of four cubes stacked one above the other, split in two distinct halves.The top half denotes day and the bottom half night. Held within the structure is a sphere, continually oscillating up and down the structure, lighting up as night falls.

 

From early morning the sphere travels up the top half of the structure, reaching apex at midday before it starts to descend. As the sun sets the and the sphere reaches the middle of the structure it lights up. As the evening turns to night the sphere descends further, lighting up the canal and the bridge. Having reached its lowest point at midnight the sphere starts to ascend. Traveling upwards it reaches the middle of the structure at sunrise. The light turn off and the cycle starts over again. Every day, at sunrise and sunset, the sphere travels through the horizon at the middle of the structure. Traveling at a constant speed the highest and lowest point of cycle follow the seasons. When days are long the sphere reaches the very top of the structure and dips only briefly below the horizon. Conversely in the winter months the cycle is shifted downwards bringing light ever closer to the canal.

Exploded axonometric detailing the components of the structure and the movement of the sphere

Exploded axonometric detailing the components of the structure and the movement of the sphere

 
Eleanor Dodman Architects_The Light Winch-4.jpg
Photograph of 1:15 scale model, night

Photograph of 1:15 scale model, night

Eleanor Dodman Architects_The Light Winch-5.jpg
Photograph of 1:15 scale model, day

Photograph of 1:15 scale model, day

 
 
 

The Light Winch sits on the northern corner of the site which projects out into the canal. Visible both from the adjacent bridge and the canal towpath this location presents an opportunity to operate at both a distant and intimate setting through scale and material.

The simple figure, with a height similar to the large warehouse door opening onto the canal, is clearly legible at a distance. The language of the frame, made from square metal sections, is akin to the cranes and gantries of the wharf buildings. The top half of the structure is clad in a metal mesh, giving weight and presence the figure when seen at a distance. The bottom half is composed of acrylic extrusions arranged horizontally and rotated at an angle to the main structure. The way these reflected and refracted light is suggestive of a lighthouse fresnel lens.

Through its presence and activity the Light Winch acts as a beacon. It does so both by marking and drawing attention to a location, and by acting as a transmitter of information.


Night time view of the Light Winch from Haggerston Road Bridge

Night time view of the Light Winch from Haggerston Road Bridge