Vol. 9, No. 27
July 5-11, 2001
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Annapolis’ Westgatehenge: A Tough Job Done Right

It’s a tough job, but someone had to do it. In this case, the tough job fell on the nine citizens of the Westgate Circle Design Committee and the three men of the Cook/Bond/Machado Design Group.

Their burden was choosing what to put in the center of the traffic circle. And a burden it was, as whatever you put in, somebody’s going to hate it. If it’s a statue of a person, people are going to say “who’s that?” Once they figure it out, they’re going to say “what’s a person like that doing in a place like this?” If it’s a modern statue, like maybe a big electric plug or a couple of big spiders or just a pile of iron, they’re going to rave about meaninglessness in modern art. If it’s a fountain, they’re going to fret about mosquitoes breeding in the water.

Nowadays, the haters are likely to organize a grass-roots resistance movement to make you take it down.

And you don’t dare leave it open, for they’ll hate it all the more. Its emptiness will become a metaphor for government, tarring whatever administration is around at the time.

Last Thursday, the Westgate Circle Design Committee announced its decision. In a stroke of genius, the members had disarmed most every critic by choosing the unimaginable: a henge. Everybody was too busy figuring out what a henge is to complain.

What a henge is is an enclosed circle containing an arrangement of upright stone pillars to mark astronomical events. As in Stonehenge. Now, as in Westgatehenge.

Annapolitan Don Cook conceived the henge on the spot: while driving West Street Circle. Together with fellow Maryland Hall artist-in-residence Richard Bond and intern Timothy Machado, he realized the idea, which is named Measure.

Simply, Measure is a row of stone pillars. Running east to west, the 11 pillars rise from the existing mound, bisecting it. They’re carved in pairs, with the shortest, about a foot tall, at the edges; the tallest, four and a half feet, stands alone at the center.

That’s about as much as the hengers have got to do. If they’ve got their physics right, the sun will take care of the rest. Like a sundial, light falls between the pillars to tell the time of day. Seasons will be illumined by the fall of light on the faces of the pillars. Of course, as in any proper henge, the solstices and equinoxes will be plain to see. Whether walking or driving.

They’ve even figured out how to make it work at night.

So now, instead of complaining, we’re waiting to see if it works.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly