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Thursday, February 19, 1998
Section: Local
Page: 1B
PHOTOGRAPHS: Alan Diaz  Click here for two memorable photos by Alan Diaz

Catching some rays
Catching some rays
He lives in a world of the gnomon, horology and the analemma, where time is never casually killed or wasted but revered as a science. Horology is Robert Terwilliger's profession. He is a Certified Master Clockmaker, capital letters please.

But time is also his passion. And we, the lower-case general public, are trashin' his passion.

Terwilliger is a co-founder of the North American Sundial Society, and it seems, sadly, that the status of sundials here in a state known for sunshine is el pitso. Most of us pass a building with a big blank wall and take no note. The south-facing wall of a parking garage in downtown Miami, for instance.

Terwilliger sees that space as ``a great place for a sundial.''

``Florida is the Sunshine State, and Dade County is, arguably, our state's sunniest corner. So why don't we see more sundials in our public areas, in our gardens and gracing the walls of our buildings?'' asks Miami's Mr. Sundial.

He and his fellow dialists, as NASS members are known, are attempting to establish a national registry of permanent sundials. With the exception of the garden variety, backyard type, he has counted just two in Miami-Dade. The oldest, built in 1924, is on the 110-foot Alhambra Water Tower in Coral Gables, and it is being repaired. The other, built in the early 1980s, is at the tower top on an elevator shaft at the Streets of Mayfair in Coconut Grove.

Mr. Sundial calls this one ``a hideous fake.'' As for the one in Coral Gables, he has offered free technical assistance to the city Public Works Department but has been ignored.

A prophet scorned.

What, no batteries?
He also approached the county's Art in Public Places program with a concept for a giant public sundial but was, yep, ignored. They want artists, not horologists.

Not surprisingly, the back yard of his Coconut Grove home is littered with sundials, including one he designed with a laser that is accurate and makes adaptive reuse of a former hot tub. It seems certain sundialists have a fondness for garage sales.

Unwilling to curse the community darkness around him, he has created his own Web domain -- -- that offers sundial information, ideas and even plays music: Here Comes The Sun.

A late blooming idea is landscape architecture.

"Instead of putting a sundial in your garden, why not put a garden in your sundial?" Terwilliger asks. All it takes is space for it, plus a bit of knowledge about the polar axis, your exact latitude and such.

In a cynical, high-tech world, where clocks can be biological and bombs often tick, Terwilliger and his passion stand out. "Sundials need no batteries," he said. "They are kind to the environment and, with minimal maintainence, will last forever. A sundial is a witness to a past in which time moved more slowly"

All content © 1998 THE MIAMI HERALD and may not be republished without permission.
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