Olafur Eliasson Builds Astronomical Pavillion on Top of the Hochjochferner Glacier in Italy

Courtesy Studio Olafur Eliasson

The piece is aptly named Our glacial perspectives, 2020.

Olafur Eliasson is known for his large-scale installations using natural elements. He created a seemingly floating waterfall in the Gardens of Versailles and a tornado-like stair sculpture in Munich. Now, the Danish–Icelandic artist is taking his skills to one of the most unique locations in his career: a glacier.


Martin Rattini/Courtesy Studio Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson unveiled a new, permanent, public work called Our glacial perspectives, 2020 at the Hochjochferner glacier in South Tyrol, Italy. The piece actually begins with a pathway that stretches along the mountain's glacial ridge for 1,345 feet. Nine gates act as a timeline highlighting Earth's ice ages. When you reach the end of the path, there's a pavilion made from several steel and glass rings. A circular deck is inside that juts out over the edge of Mount Grawand. 

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The deck is meant to be an interactive astronomical instrument. When you stand on it, your gaze can align with the surrounding rings; those rings track the sun's apparent path and divide the year into intervals. The top ring marks the summer solstice; the middle ring follows the equinox, and the bottom is the winter solstice. Additionally, each ring is split into rectangular glass panels covering 15 arc minutes of the sun's movement. So, you can figure out the time of day based on the sun's position and the rings. Beyond the pavilion lie two more parallel steel rings that frame the horizon line and half-rings that mark north-south and east-west axes.


Courtesy Studio Olafur Eliasson

This viewer experience is also meant to highlight the climate changes affecting Hochjochferner. Eliasson tinted the glass to blue shades because it filters and reflects light and solar radiation, acting as a mini-atmosphere.

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"I am very excited to have had the opportunity to create Our glacial perspectives, especially for Mount Grawand and the Hochjochferner glacier," Eliasson said in a statement. "The artwork acts as a magnifier for the very particular experience of time and space that this location affords—vast and boundless on the one hand, local and specific on the other. It is an optical device that invites us to engage, from our embodied position, with planetary and glacial perspectives."