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A Moment in Repose: The Winter Solstice Through Time

by Leigh Patterson

December 21 marks the Winter solstice — both the official first day of winter and the shortest day and longest night of the year.

Historically, the solstice represents the transition into a season of introspection, an organic slowing down — coinciding with the end of the calendar year, it’s a primordial marker for the pause that exists between an end and a new beginning... a moment to take inventory of the present and set intentions before the start of a new cycle. 

With this transition in mind we found ourselves looking to references in history, art, and architecture from around the world, each grounded in acknowledging and yielding to the cycles and systems that unite us.

Shaina Mote — A Moment in Repose: The Winter Solstice Through Time

“I think architecture is a place where one can affirm one’s existence. ... Even in Naoshima, where daylight enters the building from all directions, I want to express how we all live with nature.” — Tadao Ando. Image: Tadao Ando’s sundial at Awaji Yumebutai, Awaji Island, Japan, 2005. Image source unknown.



Chaco Canyon, New Mexico was a major centre of ancestral Pueblo culture (c. 850-1250) Many Chacoan buildings were aligned to capture the solar and lunar cycles, requiring generations of astronomical observations and coordinated construction. The equinoxes and seasonal solstices on one stone formation are uniquely marked as the “sun dagger” patterns intersect the spirals. On the winter solstice, two vertical shafts of light frame the carved petroglyph. Image: "Sun Dagger" on Fajada Butte, photo Paul Charbonneau, copyright High Altitude Observatory.





Stone ring goal in The Great Ballcourt, an ancient ritual center at Chichén Itzá built by the Maya people in the year 1400 BC. Evidence suggests that the ball games were tied with astronomical events, with one theory regarding the ball as a sun/moon in the game. Image: The Ball Court, Maya-Toltec, Chichén Itzá, Stone Ring Goal, 1959. C/o Bywaters Special Collections, Southern Methodist University.





Relógio de Sol (Sundial), 1960 by Lygia Clark. Clark’s work insisted on the sensual and material properties of sculptures, encouraging viewers to interact with objects and installations — in this piece, she invited the spectator to modify its foldable geometric shapes.


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