Camera Lucida

January 7, 2007


Filed under: Art — CL @ 7:18 pm

Needle Tower


Kenneth Snelson
Needle Tower, 1968

I took a photograph about 28 years ago in Washington, D.C., and it has always been one of my favorites. I took it standing under an outdoor sculpture in the sculpture garden at the Hirshhorn Museum, on a brilliant spring day against a beautiful blue sky. The sculpture in question consisted of a series of metal bars held together by cables, climbing about 25 feet into the sky as it narrowed. The perspective from directly below is interesting because the narrowing at the center provides the effect of a recursive six-pointed star, the Star of David. The title I gave to my photograph was “Aspiring”.

I have always wondered who the artist was and what he called his piece. I had no idea whether it was still there. A few years ago, I looked on the internet but found no information about it.

This week I tried again, and after a little work I found it. The piece is “Needle Tower”, apparently created in 1968 (thus ten years before I took my photo) by Kenneth Snelson. The accompanying photograph is from the Hirshhorn’s web site, taken from precisely the same location, and is nearly identical to mine. Technically the photo may be a little better than mine because it includes a kind of reflective effect that lightens the dark blue sky in the upper left quadrant.

The web discloses more:

Snelson’s web site —

A preview gallery features his work — including Needle Tower II, created in 1969, on display at a museum in Holland.

These sites note the early collaboration between Snelson and Buckminster Fuller, and their later rift.

Snelson has a number of patents, including “Space Frame Structure Made by 3-D Weaving of Rod Members”,


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