Kempelen’s Owls

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Kempelen’s Owls

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Kempelen’s Owls are yet another awesome display of hands-on art in Austin! People of all ages will be fascinated by these mechanical owls!
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What everyone knows

Kempelen’s Owls are located on the sidewalk in front of the new Austin Proper Hotel.

What they don't tell you

If you are a handy person and adept at constructing things, you will be happy to learn that the blueprint designs can be found online for you to manufacture your very own owl. Thanks to being made available to the public under a Creative Commons license.

Do it like a local

The owls’ location near Butterfly Bridge makes for some amazing photo opps, especially after dusk. I recommend having a fun spin-off contest with a friend to see who can turn their owl a full 360° the fastest! With children? Awesome! Let them discover how to spin the owls and take them across the street to the downtown library and have them do some research on Wolfgang von Kempelen. afterward, celebrate their efforts via a short walk around the corner to The Baked Bear shop in the Seaholm district’s courtyard where they can enjoy a tasty ice cream sandwich and get their energy out on the large artificial grass play area.

For the History Buffs

The Frost Bank Tower isn’t the only Great-Horned-Owl-like structure in downtown Austin. There are a pair of ten feet tall owls on turnstile pedestals located at the northeastern corner of 2nd Street’s Butterfly Bridge. Kempelen’s Owls, as they are referred as are named after the reknowned Hungarian poet & author Wolfgang Von Kempelen. No wonder these owls are mechanical. Kempelen himself dabbled in robotics in the late 18th century. The Austin owls are a part of A.I.P.P., or Art in Public Places, and are a permanent public interactive sculpture meant to foster curiosity by passerbys of all ages. The pair of Great Horned owls are constructed of layered metal and composite materials, as they perch atop dodecahedrons and silently observe their surroundings. Besides the exciting aspect that these owls can be rotated by a Lazy-Susan-like device underneath theie circular benches, my favorite feature is that the eyes on both owls light up at night along with the twelve-sided three-dimensional geometric figures known as dodecahedrons.
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