Visit the Restless Temple, this mechanised sculpture is one of the most extraordinary, beautiful spectacles you’re likely to see in Cornwall, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. It will be swaying gently in the wind on a hilltop at Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens in Penzance for the next two years.
The Restless Temple is the work of artist and designer Penny Saunders. She’s been working on this jaw-dropping feat of engineering for nearly 15 years now, the last four with mechanical sculptor and engineer Rob Higgs. She’s also called on the expertise of three universities and a world earthquake authority.
The Temple started life back in 1999 during a brainstorming session looking at ways to mark the new millennium.
“I was asked to a Pre-Millennium Tension weekend at Dartington in 1999,” says Saunders. “They were looking for ideas for less jingoistic ways of celebrating the last 1,000 years. I thought of splitting the atom, the image of the house blowing apart in the Los Alamos atom bomb test, and so to a Glass Temple at the mercy of the elements, blowing in the wind.
“Temples are usually made of stone, stand still and glorify mortal and immortal power. I started to think about this temple as a monument to our ambitious and precarious ingenuity – always at the mercy of the forces of Nature
“This temple moves between the powers of wind and gravity. Its columns are hollow, just a light cedar skin. The engineered strength is similar to that of a ship’s mast. A core of tensioned steel runs from temple top to the counterweights at the bottom.
“It’s uncertain how long the temple will ride the storm and survive intact. Any decay is seen as part of its journey. Hopefully it will have time enough to attract plants, mosses and lichens.”
It’s worth a visit in the evening, as the sun sets behind the temple. It remains artificially lit until 11pm and looks beautiful in moonlight once the lights have gone out. It’s at its most dynamic in a gale, of course, but if the wind gets up to more than 60mph, the temple is temporarily chained down for health and safety.
For more information visit www.restlesstemple.co.uk.