Pleated Gnomon

“Pleated Gnomon” speaks to the rich history of Key Biscayne and in particular Village Green Park. Inspired by Mashta House, the palatial estate built by W.J. Matheson that, as historian Joan Blank commented, “once seemed to float like Cleopatra’s barge” on a protected Key Biscayne inlet, artist Jim Drain celebrates both the monumentality of Mashta House as well as the light-play of its golden walls. “Pleated Gnomon” is a site-specific sculpture that utilizes reduced forms to showcase the same tropical light and shadow that once bathed the Moorish style architectural gem.

The installation of this work at the south end of the Village Green was dedicated on September 25, 2016 as part of the Village's 25th Anniversary Celebration. Councilmember Franklin Caplan presided at the ceremony. His dedication speech can be viewed here.


The sculpture is constructed from stacked blocks of white marble terrazzo embedded with solid rods of colored glass. As daylight passes, the sunlight illuminates the colorful rods creating a matrix of shimmering dots of colored light. This colorful illumination is reflected onto the surface of the stainless steel ‘pleats’ that repeatedly run the length of the form. The vertical pleats provide the structure for the entire work, separating each column of stacked terrazzo. At night, rows of LEDs embedded flush to the surface of the terrazzo base will continue to spotlight “Pleated Gnomon” and in particular light up the embedded rods of glass.

"Pleated Gnomon" is also an active sundial. After meeting with FIU astronomer Walter Van Hamme, Drain designed the sculpture so that the work could indicate solar time. As Van Hamme states, "There is one condition that cannot be escaped: the sundial's stylus must be aligned with true North and make an angle with the horizontal equal to the local geographical latitude…these conditions align the stylus with the rotational axis of the Earth". The word gnomon, literally meaning "one that knows and examines", refers to the pleated terrazzo structure that casts a shadow, while the metal stylus points north at an angle of 25.69 degrees, the site's exact longitudinal measurement. As a sundial, “Pleated Gnomon” provides possibilities for observation, teaching and engaging audiences of all ages. The terrazzo base and adjacent circular benches allow for seating and contemplation near the playground area so as to draw in the public and broaden their outdoor experience. “Pleated Gnomon” draws from the mysterious spirit and the grandness of form of Mashta House. Drain’s work is able to link to the richness of history of Key Biscayne while also providing the means for wonderment and learning for future generations of Key Biscayne residents.

Pleated Gnomon photo August 18, 2016

 Photo of Pleated Gnomon, Village Green
Taken 1:23 p.m., August 18, 2016
(Per Professor Van Hamme:
The sun reaches the meridian about 1:21 p.m. August 28, 2016)