53° 30′ N

So, there I am, driving along in Edmonton, Alberta. I come to a stop light on Fort Road, look to my right and I see this:

Is that a building with longitudes written on the roof?!?!

And what are these longitudes? 9° 49’ W—that’s nowhere near Edmonton! Nor is 123°30’ E. What’s … going on here?

A little sleuthing via Google Maps later revealed that this was the Kathleen Andrews Transit Garage. It’s owned by the Edmonton Transit Service, which operates all of the buses and light rail in the city. But the rooftop details were part of an art installation by Thorsten Goldberg called 53° 30′ N. Each of the five structures on the roof (architecturally called lanterns) displays a longitude that directs us to a place on the earth at the same latitude as Edmonton: 53° 30′ N.

And—added bonus for shaded relief fans—that piece of terrain is then represented in 3D on the end of its lantern. Look carefully at the photo. There they are! They look for all the world like pieces of DEM rendered as Triangulated Irregular Networks in Blender.

For someone who spends a lot of time looking at terrain, this is the best kind of public art ever!

Before I go on, here are the five longitudes, in case you want to figure out for yourself where they are…

  • 9° 49’ W
  • 123°30’ E
  • 159° 08’ E
  • 168° 10’ W
  • 119° 26’ W

9° 49’ W

Mweelrea, County Mayo, Ireland

Image from opentopomap.org

123°30’ E

An unnamed gooseneck of the Amur River, which forms the border between China and Russia.

Image from opentopomap.org

159° 08’ E

The 2958 m Kamchatka volcano volcano, Zhulanovsky (Жулановский), Russia.

Image from opentopomap.org

168° 10’ W

Okmok Crater, Umnak Island, Aleutian Islands, Alaska

Image from opentopomap.org

119° 26’ W

Mt Chown, Alberta

Image from opentopomap.org

Here are some more images of the building from a CBC article.

End-on views of the relief sculptures representing (left to right) the peaks in Galway, the bends of the Amur River, the volcanos in Kamchatka, and the crater on Umnak Island.
An artist’s conception before installation, showing the Mt. Chown site on the right end.

In an interview in the Edmonton Journal, Thorsten Goldberg gave exact coordinates for the sites:

“The collected mountain landscapes are Mount Chown at 119°25‘8.24“W in Alberta, named by the Methodist minister Samuel Dwight Chown; the crater with Mount Okmok, a volcano on Umnak Island, the Aleutian Islands in Alaska at 168° 6‘22.60“W; the Zhupanovsky Crater on the Kamchatka Peninsula at 159° 8‘25.04“E; an unnamed landscape near Dacaodianzi, Heilongjiang Sheng at 123°17‘54.95“E in China; and finally Mweelrea, the highest point in the province of Connacht at 9°49‘47.59“W in County Mayo on the west coast of Ireland.”

Kudos to the City of Edmonton and its Percent for Art policy, which stipulates that one percent of construction budgets goes to public art! This must be one of the most fun geography puzzles ever.

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