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New York, New York

Union Square Metronome

The most confusing clock in New York. 

No visit to New York’s Union Square is complete without pondering, and then subsequently becoming frustrated with the Metronome, a digital display of 15 numbers changing at various speeds, designed by Kristin Jones and Andrew Ginzel in 1999. It is clear that the clock, embedded in the facade of a building on the southeast corner of the square, has the time for its left-most digits–hours, minutes, seconds…but what does the rest of it mean?

Crossing the middle digit, the numbers begin to slow down again, leading to the right-most number, which scarcely moves. It turns out that reading from the right, the numbers denote the time remaining until midnight, hours, minutes, seconds, etc., moving faster towards the center. In other words: the time displayed (backwards) on the right of the clock + the time displayed on the left of the clock = 24 hours.

In this sense, the Metronome is something of a modern-day hourglass, with time flowing from its left side to its right, and moving fastest in the middle, like grains of sand in an hourglass. The Metronome also provides one bookend to Park Avenue South, the other being the more traditional clock at Grand Central Station. The two mirror each other, displaying exactly the same information in two very different ways.

Contributed by
H Henry
Edited by