Moon river

A new sculpture in Greenwich could help Londoners learn to roll with the tideA journey on the Thames could soon look very different – if an inventive new project is approved. A tidal-powered moondial, as wide as Stonehenge and five storeys high, could be lighting up the river near the Millennium Dome. The Aluna clock would clearly demonstrate the moon’s effects on the planet, via illuminated moving ‘dials’ linked to the lunar phases and tidal flows.“The Aluna project is easily among the most exciting new projects and major visitor attractions for London’s Thames,” says Sir Terry Farrell, the architect behind the Thames Gateway masterplan and new Greenwich Peninsula, where it’s hoped Aluna will be placed. “I am very keen that all of us who are interested in the tidal Thames will find a way to realise the fundraising and construction of this beautiful project.”Farrell’s support could be key to getting funding and planning approval for this vast scientific sculpture, created by East London artist Laura Williams. But Farrell’s not alone. Among a long list of astronomers, MPs, artists, architects and academics endorsing the project is London’s Mayor Boris Johnson. He calls Aluna “a unique and imaginative landmark… [that] would showcase the best of British creativity and engineering.”The sculpture will consist of three translucent rings made from glass. Unlike a sundial, the moon’s reflection will not indicate time on Aluna as cloud cover and light pollution in cities would make this impractical. Instead, LEDs light up different parts of the spheres, indicating the moon’s phases and the height of the tide. The energy for the lights will be provided by renewable tidal power from the Thames, and the recycled glass used to create it will come primarily from local sources.People will be able to walk in and around the sculpture to gain an understanding of how the timepiece functions. To read the clock, you look at the outer ring to see the phase the moon in is (waxing, waning, full or new), at the full inner ring to see the ebb and flow of the tides, and at the half inner ring to see the moon’s position in the sky (sometimes lit beneath your feet to indicate that the moon is on the other side of the earth).The aim of Aluna is not only to increase understanding of the symbiotic relationship between the earth and moon, but also to provide a landmark for East London. So far, the project has received £1million in donations, and is currently preparing to seek planning permission. If all funding and permissions are received, it’s hoped Aluna would be built by 2013.To find out more about Aluna, including updates on its planning progress, an illustrated 3D video and how to donate, visit