Elements of Elegance – Armillary spheres

As professional designers we are often asked to marry a design with a client’s coveted possessions and gardens are no exception. Garden sculptures are significant investments and many clients request that existing sculptures are incorporated into a new design. Where the commission includes the building of new garden areas it takes a keen eye to marry what is in situ with new garden sculptures. At a recent commission, the client had already set their hearts on a number of contemporary designs for their garden but nearer to the more traditional stone built property the contemporary sculptures appeared at odds. Considering options, the client decided upon a sundial that would provide a talking point with the young family and guests. There are a wide variety of sundials available but with advice the client chose an Armillary styled sundial that was a classical choice but due to its skeletal structure complemented the contemporary sculptures in the wider garden.

Armillary spheres are modelled on the Earth with the equator, tropics, polar circles and meridian represented by concentric rings. The north and south poles are shown as an arrow pointing to the pole star, Polaris. The armillary sphere is the purest type of sundial with its name derived from the latin armilla, which means circle or bracelet. It has been linked with such illustrious western philosophers and scientists as Ptolemy, Copernicus and Newton. Each Armillary sphere is individually built to reflect the precise latitude and longitude of where it will stand. As the earth revolves, the light of the sun moves across its surface illuminating onto the corresponding ring of the sphere to reveal the time on the hour band. The building of an Armillary sphere demands expert skills and craftsmanship with each piece made by hand that can take up to 6 weeks to construct. With each commission the sphere can incorporate personal inscriptions before assembly, making it a truly bespoke piece and individual to the garden and its new owners.