Robert Morris, Observatorium (1977), photo: Gert Schutte

Observatory (1977)

Robert Morris

Seen from above, the circular shapes near the Swifterringweg in Lelystad look exotic among the straight lines of fields, roads and railways. The circles are the concentric earthen ramparts that make up Robert Morris’s Observatorium.

Morris made three openings in the earthen ramparts, triangular ‘vizors’ that make the seasons more visible. Looking through the middle vizor, which is made of steel, you can see the see the sun rise on the days in the autumn and spring when night and day are equally long; 21 September and 21 March. On either side are vizors of Bavarian granite; the left one captures the first rays of sunlight in the summer on the longest day (21 June), the right one captures them in the winter on the shortest day (21 December). You get the best view standing on the stone in the middle of the inner circle, the stone that symbolically marks the centre of cyclic time.

Morris compared Observatorium with Stonehenge, the prehistoric monument that according to him also conveys time. Morris first created Observatorium in 1971 at Santpoort in the municipality of Velsen for the much-discussed exhibition ‘Sonsbeek Buiten de Perken’, which put land art on the map in the Netherlands. When a different location had to be found afterwards, the vast Province of Flevoland proved to be very suitable for re-creating the work.

Observatorium shares its history with Robert Smithson’s 1971 Broken Circle|Spiral Hill in Emmen, the only other work of art created for ‘Sonsbeek Buiten de Perken’ that is still intact.

Read more about this artwork

Robert Morris's Observatorium (1977) is located on the Swifterringweg in Lelystad in the Netherlands. Click here for the address and coordinates.

Robert Morris, Observatory (1977), photo Franzi Mueller-Schmidt, February 2021

Artist: Robert Morris
Title: Observatorium
Unveiled: 1977
Materials: earth, water, grass, shells, steel, Bavarian granite, wood
Dimensions: circumference of 91 metres
Location: Swifterringweg, Lelystad
Commissioned by: RIJP (Rijksdienst IJsselmeer Polders),
Managed by: het Flevo-landschap