By Geo Homsy, Chico MacMurtrie, Bill Washabaugh


(Back to Art on the Grounds)

Organograph is an ever-changing, participatory sculpture that invites the public to observe and respond to the processes of climate change. Visually and physically inviting, it functions as a captivating civic beacon as well as a flexible instrument of scientific measurement, public education, and individual experience. The total mechanism of the sculpture responds to and provides a window into worldwide climate data. A spectacular clock-like system of interconnecting exhibit orbs, liquid flows, and mechanical movement illustrates the dynamic equilibrium of energy and mass flow in the biosphere. The entire sculpture moves two meters per year along a spiral trench, leaving in its wake a living garden and a trail paved with archival culture bricks made of glassified garbage. The width of the trail forms a graph, representing the historical levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The future is represented by a curving reflecting pool. Visitors enter the sculpture via a single stairway, representing the rise of industrialization as well as the progression of the greenhouse effect. At the top, in the humid “Vapor Orb”, visitors may choose to descend by way of one of two stairs: the oil dependency future, or the sustainable future. This journey of discovery is guided by the interactive Learning Atom. These user-specific tokens, using RFID technology, connect to a live database that is continually updated in collaboration with scientific research institutions, and present each visitor a unique interactive audiovisual experience. In the Terrarium Sphere, plants are continually seeded, nourished by compost carried up by visitors, and rotated out toward the perimeter. Each day at noon, a plant travels down a chute from this Spiral Incubator and is replanted in the Time Trail Garden. The atmosphere inside the incubator—and hence the health of the exterior Garden—fluctuates in response to global atmospheric conditions. The sun is the sole energy source for the project. Photovoltaic arrays and solar thermal collectors are clustered along the three great unfolding sculptural petals that dramatically open each morning and close each night.

This project was created as part of the San Jose Climate Clock Initiative. See the Organograph online at