Meet the Team

Mike Johnson

Allison Dianis

Scott Dianis

Juliette Earl

Design: Allison Dianis, Scott Dianis, Mike Johnson, Juliette Earl
Build: Mike Johnson

What we’ve come to call “Fire Windmill” has had a few different designs and iterations before completion. The original concept was pitched as a fire-driven windmill with music. Allison and Scott Dianis, Mike Johnson, and Juliette Earl took that concept into a few brainstorming sessions. The central motif — draft from an open fire powering a turbine in order to turn a vertical axle — was an early idea, inspired by the classic German Christmas pyramid design but at a larger scale. Another early concept was that vertical axle would connect to a horizontal axle to turn a large, hand made music box drum, but that was unfortunately scrapped for time and replaced with a Bluetooth speaker for the musical element. The upper portion of the design was originally conceived as a light house with a rotating beacon, but later evolved into a replica of the Philips Academy Memorial Bell Tower to better represent an Andover landmark.

While Allison and Scott took on a separate build, Mike turned to transforming the drawn plans into an actual build. The lower portion consists of a 4′ square wooden floor, wrapped in heat-proofing material. Four “pillars” of galvanized plumbing pipe hold up a similar 4′ square heat-proofed wood ceiling to contain the fire. The fire bowl is a galvanized steel tub with legs added, and an improvised chimney to help direct the draft. Suspended through the ceiling at the top of this cube is the vertical axle, and mounted on that is a handmade turbine fashioned from sheet metal and attached with a wonderful Frankenstein of electrical and plumbing hardware. The upper portion is a wooden replica of the Memorial Bell Tower, painted and hand detailed. The axle extends up through this tower, and an LED beacon at the top rotates at window height, harkening back to the original lighthouse concept.

Designed in 1919 with construction completed in 1923, the real Memorial Bell Tower is dedicated to the 87 Philips Academy alumni who died in World War I.  The bells were rung daily starting in 1932, at times famously to the annoyance of Philips students at dawn. Over the decades, however, the tower suffered structural damage from time and the elements. It was carefully refurbished and rebuilt in 2005, preserving much of the original timber and stone. While the beautiful bell carillon is now automated electronically, it can be — and at times is — still played manually.