Huey-Dewey-Louie Climate Clock (2008)

Self-building landscape that measures & tracks climate change, slowly growing over a period of 100 years

Developed in collaboration with Robert Davis, Psychology Department, Goldsmiths College, London, this project was one of three finalists in the ideas competition organised by the Climate Clock Initiative, San Jose.

The Huey-Dewey-Louie Climate Clock is a proposed self-building landscape that measures and tracks climate change, both local and global, over the course of the next 100 years. The concept and technical design were developed in homage to the film 'Silent Running', where three robots tend to domed gardens as they float through space. The project was developed over two years, in particular during a residency at FUSE:cadre.

Climate Clock in the early years

Our basic assumptions

  • That a solely data-driven approach to monitoring climate change is insufficient, relying too much on current philosophies & technologies; the clock would need to be self-powered & iteratively constructed, passively measuring & dealing adaptively with unforeseen sensorial requirements.
  • That carbon dioxide is not the only climatic indicator that needs tracking; future research will likely identify new causal relationships - how these are tracked will be collectively determined.
  • That it would be useful to encode climatic data at various temporal resolutions so that both current & future human generations or alien visitors might decode & learn from it regardless of technological development.
  • That humanity may not survive the next 100 years.

The Clock consists of three characters that construct themselves over the course of days, months & years forming a highly legible landscape record of climatic change & possible causes of this change. Biological materials are extracted directly from the environment to facilitate ongoing and future analyis.

Huey-Dewey-Louie Climate Clock after 14 years

I. Accretion Mounds - Huey

Autonomously accreted daily from light & dark materials extracted chemically from the atmosphere, the thickness of each carbonised/calcareous layer is proportional to the degree of fluctuation of local environmental parameters, visible, like tree-rings, via colour gradations of the deposited material. The geometric trend of the stratigraphic conic structure is dependent upon measurements of climatic change so that, viewed from below, the sky is visible until its completion, at which point the date will indicate the relative 'health' of the global weather system - the later it closes each year the better the global ecosphere's 'health'.


II. 3m3 Samples - Dewey

Round the site will be 100 plinths onto which will be placed annually a sample of air hermetically preserved in a transparent box measuring 3m x 1m x 1m. At Year 0, 10,000 daffodil seeds will be cloned from a single genetic sample. Each year, 100 will be planted on site; at year-end, a single flower and 99 compacted into a block will be placed at the base of the sealed sample columns. The way this preserved plant material, genetically identical through 100 years, responded to its year's changing climatic situation, and the air samples, will provide useful material for future analysis.


III. Cubic Data Packer - Louie

An autonomous machine, powered by solar panels & heat engine, grazes round the site moving 1 cm/day, guided by local temperature & wind conditions. It extracts local soil via helical blades & fuses this daily into small cubes, each face of which is stamped with a date & environmental or economic measurements chosen by daily popular public vote, including e.g. global CO2 level, atmospheric methane, rainfall, price of corn, or index of light crude oil - whatever contemporary humans determine to be important. The cubes through their encoded positions record both local & global daily environmental conditions.


Experiments carried out during the residency (fabrication by Robert Davis and Caroline Lewis)

Huey-Dewey-Louie Climate Clock material experiments

As part of a final wrap-up to the residency we produced a presentation describing the project: