In the fall of 2016, a Brown alumnus approached the School of Engineering with the idea to sponsor a student designed timepiece sculpture to accompany the new Engineering Research Center (ERC). This idea was inspired by The Long Now, a 10,000 year clock being built into the side of a mountain, as well as a wide range of kinetic sculptures. Timepiece ended up in the hands of Brown STEAM (STEM + Art) because of the group's focus on interdisciplinary projects and collaborative thinking.
The main requirements determined by the alumnus, the School of Engineering + Brown Public Arts Committee, and our student design team were:
- The sculpture had to mark the passing of time somehow
- The sculpture would last at least as long as the ERC
- The sculpture must be low maintenance
- The sculpture must fit within the larger public arts portfolio of the school
- The sculpture must lend itself to interactability and appeal to students from all over campus, not just the School of Engineering
After a semester of design development, four ideas were proposed by four different student teams. The final Mobius strip idea was selected because it met all of the criteria outlined at the conception of the project, and was popular among students in group review sessions. It was also the only idea that did not rely on kinetic parts to tell time, which made it appealing from a maintenance and durability standpoint. Part of the appeal behind this concept is that it is essentially a sun dial and is able to passively tell time. Once the concept was decided, though, we had to investigate how exactly we were going to turn the design into reality.