Perspectives Online

Landscape design students install ‘All-Seeing Whirligig’ at arboretum

This colorful bamboo sculpture (above and below) — designed, built and installed by CALS landscape design students — moves with the breezes at the JC Raulston Arboretum.Photos courtesy Will Hooker

A whimsical work of art has been placed among the blooms and foliage at JC Raulston Arboretum by students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Will Hooker, professor of landscape design in the CALS Department of Horticultural Science, led his small-scale landscape design studio class in the installation of “The All-Seeing Whirligig.”

“What we built was a kinetic wind sculpture out of mostly bamboo, my favorite medium,” said Hooker.  

The project began Oct. 26 with a class trip to Durham to collect the bamboo from a grove on the Duke University campus. Shortly thereafter, the component parts were built and the sculpture was assembled and placed at the arboretum on Nov. 2.

The sculpture is currently in the arboretum’s Southall Garden, between the JCRA Visitors' Center and the White Garden. The placement of the sculpture was determined by the space available for it to spin in the wind, with the intention of its being visible over plantings and being a “mystery that requires further investigation,” Hooker said.

“I like experimenting with taking a straight form, the bamboo culm, and making it into something organic, and, lately, putting it in motion,” he said. “The class and I decided on doing a whirligig, and after everyone designed some portion or idea of what we might do, I put the ideas together and came up with eventually what was produced.”

The main purpose of the project was for the design studio students to experience the building process itself, he said.

“All projects, from 100-plus story skyscrapers to brick-and-board bookshelves in college dorms are completed using the exact same process: What is the material?  How is it connected to the ground?  How are the materials connected to each other? And how is it finished? These lessons are certainly inherent in building with bamboo, but it goes way beyond that,” Hooker explained.  

“The other main lesson that I teach with this is for the students to come to grips with their personal quality control. Often, in a class context, such students allow ‘completion of the assignment’ to override their quality control. When it's just something that a professor sees and they mess it up a bit, it doesn't have much meaning. But if it's a component of a group project and it doesn't work or looks shoddy, then it becomes a much bigger deal. It is difficult in the professional world to insist on the highest quality, especially if it requires the sacrifice of one’s time, but this is the way to learn and this is the way to demonstrate to others that one is a competent professional.”  

Participants from the class included James Clark, Casey Cline, Bill Cox, Carolyn Efird, Katie Hamilton, Brock Holtzclaw, Raymond Holz, Casey Teal, Brian Jennings, Jeanne McClure, Emmanuel Price, Wes Richards, Josh Richardson and Virginia Wallace. All the students are either horticulture majors in the landscape design option or majors in landscape architecture.

Terri Leith