© Andy Goldsworthy, Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York. Photography by Jennifer Schmitt
In 2009, deCordova invited British artist Andy Goldsworthy to propose a permanent outdoor installation. On a cold winter’s day in 2010, the artist spent several hours exploring the snow and ice covered 35-acre landscape of the Sculpture Park. Shortly thereafter, inspired by the site, the New England climate, and the relationship between the land and the frozen waters of adjacent Flint’s Pond, he submitted drawings and a description for an idea that he calls Snow House.
Goldsworthy proposes to create a stacked granite architectural structure, set deeply into the pond-side slope, based on the design principles of pre-industrial ice houses. Before refrigeration, ice was cut from frozen ponds in winter and densely stacked in these buildings, where it would be preserved for use during the summer months. Instead of ice, Goldsworthy plans to fill the Snow House with a single snowball, approximately 9 feet in diameter. Each winter, after the first significant snowfall, Museum staff and local community groups will create the snowball within the Snow House, where it will remain enclosed until summer, when the chamber will be opened to reveal a physical reminder of winter. The snowball will slowly melt over a week to ten day period, and the Snow House will then remain open until the following winter.
According to the artist, “the work is not an object, but a container—a forum for change, memory, replenishment, season—in which the construction and care of the object, along with its interaction with people, are integral to the work.”
Snow House merges Goldsworthy’s profound explorations of the ephemeral and the permanent, and includes an ongoing performance aspect that marks the seasons in perpetuity. This project is also new and unique for Goldsworthy: while he has frequently worked with both snow and aspects of ancient architecture (walls, arches, cairns, sheepfolds, barns), Snow House is the first project to combine the two so integrally and directly.
Snow House also engages both the topography of the Sculpture Park, as well as its historical site. While the artist was initially inspired by the ice houses built on country estates in Britain, ice houses were also ubiquitous in New England. Well into the 20th century, farmers cut ice from their ponds (including Flint’s Pond), and in the early 19th century, the harvesting and export of ice was vital to the region’s economy. Ice cut from Walden Pond in Concord and Fresh Pond in Cambridge (the latter named for the quality of its ice) was shipped as far away as India.