Clute’s Kugel

Clute’s Kugel fountain was installed at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens, Georgia in the summer of 1999. The Kugel was dedicated as a memorial to Clute Barrow Nelson by his family and friends. The Kugel is an 815-pound solid granite ball that “floats” on a thin layer of water and is constantly spinning. Clute’s Kugel, engraved with the Earth’s land masses, gives the impression of a spinning world and represents the ongoing love of a dear little boy.

The Kugel (from the German word for ball) is a perfectly polished black granite sphere that fits into a socket carved to the exact curve of the ball. The Kugel can actually revolve 360 degrees in all directions and invites people to interact with it by touching and pushing the black globe. The base stone, also granite, weighs approximately 1500 pounds. The socket in the base stone is filled with water through a small pipe. The water is pumped to Clute’s Kugel via a small electric pump that provides only about 7 psi to lift the 815-pound ball, so that it will spin smoothly in the socket. The fit of the ball to the socket is so tight that not even a credit card can be slipped between it, thus protecting little fingers of children who push the ball.

Clute and his family first saw a Kugel fountain at the Museum of Natural Science in Houston in February, 1997. Clute was drawn to this marvelous, giant ball which he could touch, push, stop and start. After Clute’s death, his enthusiasm for the Kugel convinced his family that a Kugel would make a suitable gift to the Athens community to memorialize their special boy. Clute’s Kugel is the second fountain of its type in Georgia, the other being located at Fort Discovery in Augusta.

The Kugel concept was originated by an American sculptor, but the engineering and patented process that makes the Kugel work was resolved by German engineer Josef Kusser. The company, Kusser Granitwerke in Aicha, Germany, can make a Kugel from one foot in diameter weighing 84 pounds to 10 feet in diameter weighing forty tons. Red Hogan Enterprises in Tampa, Florida serves as the North American distributor for the Kugel fountains.