Australian artist and industrial designer Joel Adler centers his work around the experience of the viewer. Working in a variety of mediums, he creates site-specific sculptures, installations, and interactive objects that offer new ways to experience the surrounding environment. His sculpture titled Viewfinder—a 440-pound mirror cantilevered by six tons of concrete and steel—imitates the function of a periscope. Jutting out several feet over the edge of a cliff, the angular structure reflects a breathtaking view of the magnificent waves crashing below. It's a sight previously impossible to observe from such a vantage point.
For the design, Adler drew his inspiration from historic naval interfaces as well as the human-nature interaction. Reflecting both light and the sound of the churning waves, it’s as if Viewfinder transports the viewer from the cliff’s summit directly to its base hundreds of feet below. The concrete and steel sculpture—slightly Brutalist in its design—offers a somewhat surreal interface whereby people might experience that bit of nature firsthand all without ever making direct contact with it.
“Sometimes the most ‘real' things feel unreal,” Alder shared on Instagram. “I have heard many comments about Viewfinder referencing a ‘digital'/'projected'/'TV' element inside the sculpture and the ‘amplification' of the sounds below. Sometimes all it takes is a clean mirror and reflected sound to trick the brain. Viewfinder is completely analog—there are no microphones, no electricity, and no screens (except for the ones filming it from the path). Just one big mirror and a lot of steel.”
Originally completed for Sculpture by the Sea: Bondi in 2019, Viewfinder has since been moved to its permanent location in Lighthouse Reserve, Woollahra (a suburb of Sydney, Australia). At its new location, the sculpture is positioned on a much higher cliff and offers an even more expansive view of the surf below. Due to the added height and increased wind loading, another three tons of ballast material was needed to stabilize the structure. Now, it contains about 35 cubic feet of solid steel in its base.