The Orbit Pavilion Is a Reminder That We Live in an Age of Wonder

Art illuminates science in Pasadena
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What looks like a giant silver seashell has been constructed at the Huntington in Pasadena. The art installation, called “Orbit Pavilion,” was inspired by the NASA satellites created at nearby Jet Propulsion Laboratory and will be on view until February.

Designed by Studio KCA, the aluminum spiral is about the size of a small apartment. Walk inside, and you’ll find the space awash in a variety of sounds—a frog croaking, leaves blowing in the wind, a human voice. Each sound is linked to one the 19 NASA satellites orbiting the earth, a group that includes global antenna arrays, the deep space network, and the International Space Station. Every time a satellite passes overhead, it triggers its own soundtrack within the spiral. As the satellite moves, the sound also moves between the 28 speakers in the walls.

An entire studio at the JPL is charged with helping us normals understand the complexity of space travel through artwork like this. The goal of this particular installation is to raise awareness of the many satellites that, though invisible to us, are constantly zooming through space.

As the public experiences this work of art, two things seem likely: 1. This is definitely going to be a big hit with the Prop. 64 crowd, and 2. #orbitpavilion is the new #urbanlight.

Photograph by Kate Lain / Courtesy The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, © The Huntington
Photograph by Kate Lain / Courtesy The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, © The Huntington
Photograph by Dan Goods / Courtesy The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, © The Huntington
Photograph by Dan Goods / Courtesy The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, © The Huntington
Photograph by Dan Goods / Courtesy The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, © The Huntington
Photograph by Dan Goods / Courtesy The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, © The Huntington
Photograph by David Delgado / Courtesy The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, © The Huntington
Photograph by David Delgado / Courtesy The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, © The Huntington
Photograph by Dan Goods / Courtesy The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, © The Huntington
Photograph by Dan Goods / Courtesy The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, © The Huntington

Chris Nichols is City Scholar at Los Angeles magazine. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram. He likes to help save old buildings

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