“Our Glacial Perspectives ”, 2020

A permanent, public artwork by Olafur Eliasson on Mount Grawand


The artwork begins with a path leading along the mountain’s glacial-carved ridge for 410 metres.

This path is divided by nine gates that are spaced at intervals corresponding in scale to the durations of Earth’s ice ages, marking thereby a deep-time timeline of our planet, of ice, and of the environment. At the end of the path is a pavilion made from multiple steel and glass rings that contain a circular deck jutting out over the edge of Mount Grawand. Standing on the deck, the viewer can use the pavilion as an astronomical instrument by aligning her gaze with the surrounding rings, which track the apparent path of the sun in the sky on any given day. The rings divide the year into equal time intervals: the top ring tracks the path of the sun on the summer solstice; the middle ring tracks the equinox; and the bottom ring, the winter solstice. Each ring is itself split into rectangular glass panes that cover 15 arc minutes of the sun’s movement across the sky, making it possible for the viewer to determine the time of day based on the position of the sun.

On the outside of the pavilion, two parallel steel rings frame the horizon line, and the half-rings that support the structure indicate the north–south and east–west axes. By marking the horizon, the cardinal directions, and the movement of the sun, the artwork directs the visitor’s attention to a larger planetary perspective on the changes in climate that are directly affecting Hochjochferner.

The glass panes of the sun-path are tinted in various shades of blue in reference to the cyanometer, a scale developed in the late eighteenth century for measuring the blueness of the sky. The coloured glass filters reflect light and solar radiation, behaving as a mini-atmosphere.

Graphical explanation of the artwork