2017-11-02 / Front Page

TURNING BACK THE CLOCK

Diepenbrock sculpture pays homage to foundry workers
BY TIM RIEL


Workers install ‘The Foundry Clock Man’ atop the former Brown & Sharpe factory across the highway from Providence Place. The 9,000-pound sculpture was conceived by Jamestown artist Peter Diepenbrock. Workers install ‘The Foundry Clock Man’ atop the former Brown & Sharpe factory across the highway from Providence Place. The 9,000-pound sculpture was conceived by Jamestown artist Peter Diepenbrock. Looking westward at the Woonasquatucket River, drivers on Interstate 95 in downtown Providence momentarily will travel back in time to the turn of the 20th century.

Peter Diepenbrock, the Jamestown sculptor whose career has catered to the colossal, has crafted a masterpiece that pays homage to the Industrial Revolution.

“The Foundry Clock Man,” a 9,000-pound sculpture that towers 12 feet high, was conceptualized by Diepenbrock. The figure, which is a nod to the workforce that once thrived in the capital city, depicts a foundry worker pushing a vintage clock.

According to Diepenbrock, the clock is being driven toward the roof’s edge, which leaves the message open to interpretation for the 200,000 sets of eyes that traverse that area daily.


Peter Diepenbrock, from left, with members of The Foundry Campus leadership team, Tony Thomas, Dan Nichols and Tom Guerra. The sculpture, ‘The Foundry Clock Man,’ graces the northeast corner of The Promenade Apartments. Diepenbrock’s original scale model and blueprints also are shown (inset). Peter Diepenbrock, from left, with members of The Foundry Campus leadership team, Tony Thomas, Dan Nichols and Tom Guerra. The sculpture, ‘The Foundry Clock Man,’ graces the northeast corner of The Promenade Apartments. Diepenbrock’s original scale model and blueprints also are shown (inset). “It’s a gesture toward time,” said Diepenbrock, whose resume includes the 9/11 memorial at the Rhode Island State House. “But is it a disruptive gesture? Or a triumphant gesture?”

We have liftoff

During the unveiling in mid- October, the massive sculpture was hoisted by crane atop the Brown & Sharpe building, the former manufacturing plant that now houses The Promenade Apartments.

In its heyday, from the Civil War’s wake to the dawn of World War II, the factory thrived as a clockmaker before transitioning to metrological machines. The families played a vital role in shaping the fabric of the community, employing scores of Rhode Islanders while influencing policy on Smith Hill.

Following the manufacturing days, the complex was purchased in 1968 by Antonio Guerra to revitalize Rhode Island’s industrial architecture.

Diepenbrock’s connection to Guerra’s the foundry began in 1986 when he opened a studio in the complex. For the next decade, Diepenbrock worked from five different studios, all of which were on the 26-acre campus that houses 700,000 square feet of commercial space and 433 residential units in 13 buildings.

“I know that place inside and out,” he said.

Diepenbrock now works from his Hamilton Avenue home, but a conversation over cocktails during a 2016 Super Bowl party reinvigorated his relationship. That’s when he bumped into a managing partner of the foundry’s ownership group. The man told Diepenbrock he wanted to culminate the 50-year renovation with “a gesture of appreciation.” He was open to suggestions, so Diepenbrock began preparing his pitch.

Conceptualizing clock man

During his meeting with the foundry’s leadership team in March 2016, Diepenbrock presented a slideshow with more than 50 images. These renderings were part of a grand plan to beautify the campus, with sculptures scattered throughout the property.

“They weren’t interested in the art,” Diepenbrock said. “But they loved the clock idea. I was floored because it was sort of a humorous pitch.”

After the owners gave him the go-ahead, Diepenbrock found himself in an unusual predicament. He typically builds everything himself, but a 9,000-pound sculpture that needs to withstand the weather 85 feet in the air isn’t his forte. So, he contacted Americlock, a Missouri company that connected Diepenbrock to James Androuais. As project manager and lead fabricator, Androuais personally delivered the parts to Providence and fine-tuned the two-sided functioning clock.

“He’s a remarkable young man,” Diepenbrock said. “The clock is pretty sophisticated.”

Another hurdle was which side of the building would offer the best view. At first, the ownership team favored the south side of the building, but Diepenbrock’s inclination for the northern edge led to an experiment. A driver, with a camera in tow, drove north and south on I-95. The design team then incorporated the sculpture into the videos to compare the views. Diepenbrock’s hunch was correct.

As the crane lifted “The Foundry Clock Man” into the northeastern corner of the building, Diepenbrock watched proudly. “It was thrilling,” he said. “You can’t imagine.”

Four minutes after it was bolted in place, Diepenbrock bent down to grab something. Without any outside forces at work, his wristwatch, which he has worn without incident for years, fell clean from his wrist and landed flat on the ground.

“Are we pushing time,” Diepenbrock wondered, “or is time pushing us?”

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