Concept rendering of Spinnradl in situ on Pendleton Street in Cincinnati

Ene presented our concept for a series of public street sculptures to the key stakeholders in the City of Cincinnati yesterday. Our ‘Spinnradl’ concept was very enthusiastically received and we have the go-ahead to proceed with a final design. Here is a little archive of the key components comprising the sculptures, beginning with the original narrative I wrote to contextualize our proposal:


Spinnradl is a series of two vertical street sculptures to be sited along Pendleton Street at the intersections of 12th and 13th Streets in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Measuring 14’ high, these interactive, kinetic sculptures combine an acoustic, audio element with an analog, radial Moire animation, each powered by an easily turned hand crank.

Like a giant music box, turning the crank spins a 30” diameter, aluminum cylinder studded with small cylindrical prongs that strike tuned metal bars, producing a musical composition. Internal gearing enables the cylinder to make one revolution approximately every 60 seconds, producing a one minute melody designed to loop repeatedly. The hand crank is turned approximately two revolutions per second to produce this effect.

Attached to either end of the musical cylinder are colorful star patterns that animate when viewed through a series of radial slits cut into the sculpture’s aluminum housing. When the crank is turned, the bright stars appear to pulse repeatedly in sync with the music, changing color while slowly spinning, visible from a block or two away.

The sculpture gets its name from a traditional German folk dance, where pairs or groups of three dancers make intricate star formations with their interlocking arms. Spinnradl translates as ‘Spinning Wheel’. The dance and the music it evokes would have been familiar to the original German immigrants who built the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.

The star reference has further significance to African Americans who found their way to Cincinnati through the Underground Railroad when OTR was a hub of the Abolitionist Movement. Coded in folk crafts like quilting, and in songs like ‘Follow the Drinking Gourd’, escaped slaves could make their way to freedom by heading North, guided by the North Star.

A universal symbol, the star resonates on other levels as well. Several Appalachian hymns reference a ‘guiding star’, perhaps most famously in the iconic ‘Bright Morning Star’, a perennial standard among bluegrass and folk musicians to this day. Also, one of the most popular rides at Cincinnati’s Coney Island Amusement Park was a roller coaster called ‘Shooting Star’, and one of the steamboats servicing Coney Island was named ‘Guiding Star’. Stars can be found throughout Cincinnati, in many shapes and sizes, rendered as architectural details on houses, churches and public buildings.

We have identified four potential musical compositions to consider for the sculptures to play, each with its own unique heritage and cultural associations. Ideally, we’d pick two or three that have the most potential to blend together to suggest new melodies and compositions, adding a layer of musical inquiry and invention to the sculptures’ interactivity. The melodies are:

1. Follow the Drinking Gourd (traditional spiritual)

2. The Coney Island Dip (1902 ragtime, written to promote Coney Island)

3. Spinnradl (traditional German folk melodic type)

4. Bright Morning Star (Appalachian hymn)

The sculptures will be engineered, manufactured and installed by the Verdin Company, who will also develop an alternate version using bells instead of tuned bars to produce the music. The design of the sculpture will not change dramatically if bells are the more effective option. We will also work closely with Verdin to design a locking mechanism for the crank arm to limit playing time to a agreed upon, programmable schedule.

Radial Moire star animation, rendered by Matthew Hausman


I found a portion of the sheet music for the Coney Island Dip in Cincinnati’s History Archives, a ragtime written by Add. J. Ressegue in 1902 to promote Cincinnati’s Coney Island amusement park. My friend Christopher Ertelt improvised a conclusion to the piece, which he performs beautifully in the recording above. The music will be adapted to play in the Spinnradl music box in sync with the radial Moire star animation.


3D Scale model showing proportions and primary components

sculpture schematic2

Schematic drawing showing mechanical components 


Custom ceramic tile frieze and other tiles to be made by Rookwood of Cincinnati


Another view of the Spinnradl concept in situ on Pendleton Street in Cincinnati

guys on site visitsite evaluation 2girl framing image

Ene worked closely with the Pendleton community to brainstorm visual themes consistent with the neighborhood’s distinct heritage and ongoing development

star plain

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