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A Giant Concrete Orb in Northern Iceland Moves With the Arctic Circle

It’s on the remote island of Grímsey in Iceland.

Kate Lunau

Kate Lunau

Image: Studio Granda

On Grímsey, a remote island 25 miles off the northern coast of Iceland, sits a massive orb of concrete that marks the Arctic Circle. The artwork, called Orbis & Globus ("Circle & Sphere"), weighs 8 metric tons (almost 9 tons US), and will be physically moved a short distance each year because the Arctic Circle is moving, too.

The artwork. Image: Studio Granda

"The Arctic Circle marks a point where the Sun never sets in the summer and never rises in the winter," Steve Christer, a partner with Studio Granda, which created the work in a partnership with artist Kristinn E. Hrafnsson, told me over the phone from Reykjavik. "It isn't just a point on a map." At 66.5 °N, the Arctic Circle moves a little bit each year as the Earth travels through space, shifting on its axis. (Earth's axial tilt can vary by about 2° over the course of a 40,000-year cycle.) This giant orb will have to be repositioned every year by an average of 14.5 meters. Christer told me they'll hire a contractor to do it.

The orb was commissioned by the nearby town of Akureyri, which was seeking "a symbol for the Arctic Circle on the island of Grímsey," he said. Getting the work there was no easy feat.

Getting the artwork to this remote location was no easy feat. Image: Studio Granda

Orbis & Globus was created in a builder's yard in Akureyri, Christer told me. It has a foam core sprayed with concrete and a reinforced layer of steel. To get the globe, which has a diameter of 3 meters, to the island, they put it on the back of a truck, rode the ferry to Grímsey, and unloaded it. "We're working right on the edge of civilization out there."

Construction. Image: Studio Granda

Christer said the intention of the artwork is to get people thinking about the wider world, and what's beyond that. "It represents how we move through the universe. That's pretty mind-expanding," he told me. "Something that's more important than Donald Trump or anything else is, where are we going? That's what this piece is about."

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