June 17, 2020

Pedestrian Passage in Old Town Scottsdale is also a Solar Calendar

Ever wondered what the big pylons are along the Arizona Canal, just off of Scottsdale Road and south of Camelback? They are more than just pretty poles!

Aerial view of Soleri Bridge and Plaza by Paolo Soleri. Photo: Bill Timmerman.

About Soleri Bridge and Plaza

Soleri Bridge and Plaza, designed by Paolo Soleri, is a pedestrian passage, solar calendar, and gathering place along the Scottsdale Waterfront. The bridge is anchored by two 64-foot pylons and is 27 feet wide on the south side, narrowing to 18 feet on the north. Situated at a true north axis, the bridge is intended to mark solar events produced by the sun’s shadow. 

The 6-inch gap between both sets of pylons allows the sun to create a shaft of light as the earth moves. Each solar noon—which can vary up to 40 minutes from 12 p.m. noon—light coming through the gap produces a shadow. The length of this shaft of light varies depending upon the time of year.

Keep an Eye Out!

At each summer solstice, when the sun is highest in the sky, no shadow is cast from the pylons. The summer solstice is the longest day of the year and marks the official beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere. This year, the summer solstice lands on June 20.

At each winter solstice (December 21), when the sun is lowest in the sky, the shadow is the longest, reaching to the bridge structure. A red stripe along the length of the bridge deck follows the light and perceptually leads the viewer across the bridge. The bridge and plaza also celebrate the annual equinox events that are approximately on September 21 and March 22.

Learn more about the project and listen to an audio tour here.

Be sure to check it out, while social distancing, this Saturday when the sun is at its highest, around 2:40 p.m..

Soleri Bridge and Plaza at sunset. Photo: Bill Timmerman.

On Monday, check out Scottsdale Arts Learning & Innovation’s Spark blog (link below) for a summer solstice activity!

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