Windswept by
Charles Sowers

| 11 comments

Hundreds of spinning blades reveal the invisible patterns of the wind in American artist Charles Sowers' kinetic installation on the facade of the Randall Museum in San Francisco (+ movie).

Windswept by Charles Sowers

The installation, titled Windswept, consists of 612 rotating aluminium weather vanes mounted on an outside wall.

Windswept by Charles Sowers

As gusts of wind hit the wall, the aluminium blades spin not as one but independently, indicating the localised flow of the wind and the way it interacts with the building.

Windswept by Charles Sowers

"Our ordinary experience of wind is as a solitary sample point of a very large invisible phenomenon," said Sowers. "Windswept is a kind of large sensor array that samples the wind at its point of interaction with the Randall Museum building and reveals the complexity and structure of that interaction."

Windswept by Charles Sowers

"I’m generally interested in creating instrumentation that allows us insight into normally invisible or unnoticed phenomena," he added.

Windswept by Charles Sowers

We've featured a number of kinetic installations on Dezeen recently, including an undulating web that ripples like the surface of water and a gallery that lets visitors play in the rain without getting wet.

Windswept by Charles Sowers

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Photographs are by Bruce Damonte.


Windswept is a wind-driven kinetic facade that transforms a blank wall into an observational instrument that reveals the complex interactions between wind and environment.

Windswept consists of 612 freely rotating wind direction indicators mounted parallel to the wall creating an architectural scale instrument for observing the complex interaction between wind and the building. The wind arrows serve as discrete data points indicating the direction of local flow within the larger phenomenon. Wind gusts, rippling and swirling through the sculpture, visually reveal the complex and ever-changing ways the wind interacts with the building and the environment.

I’m generally interested in creating instrumentation that allows us insight into normally invisible or unnoticed phenomena. The Randall site, like many in San Francisco, is characterised to a great extent by its relationship to the wind. Climatically, onshore winds bring warm weather from the central valley while offshore wind bring us our famous San Francisco chilly weather.

Windswept by Charles Sowers

Windswept seeks to transform a mundane and uninspired architectural façade (the blank wall of the theatre) into a large scale aesthetic/scientific instrument, to reveal information about the interaction between the site and the wind. Our ordinary experience of wind is as a solitary sample point of a very large invisible phenomenon. Windswept is a kind of large sensor array that samples the wind at its point of interaction with the Randall Museum building and reveals the complexity and structure of that interaction.

Windswept is 20' high x 35' long. It is installed on an 1940s board-formed concrete building. The whole piece sits off the wall to allow an equal volume of air to enter a ventilation intake mounted in the middle of the existing wall. The wind arrows are made of brake-formed anodised aluminium. The arrow axles are mounted to a standard metal architectural panel wall system consisting of 25 panels. The panels have holes punched in a 12" x 12" grid pattern, into which the installation contractor secured rivet nuts to accept the stainless steel axles. Once the panels were installed the arrow assemblies were threaded into the rivet nuts.

Artist: Charles Sowers Studios, LLC
Project: Windswept
Location: Randal Museum, 199 Museum Way, San Francisco, CA
Size: 35’ length / 20’ height
Client: San Francisco Arts Commission/Randall Museum
Contractor: Rocket Science
Engineer: Hom-Pisano Engineers
Project Completion: 11/19/2010

  • kolobok

    Great decision, but not new: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbq6HqqiXcQ

    • gregorio

      Not comparable.

      • kolobok

        Facade/movable parts/wind/kinetics – what’s not comparable? :)

        • Steve Austin

          Celluloid/moving images/screen/projection. Ergo, Fellini and Ed Wood are the same. You’re an idiot.

        • lokofok

          You also have the same parts as everybody else. You’re not special, maybe just a bit dead inside.

  • gregorio

    Absolutely enchanting. Invisible kinaesthetic.

  • Gurkenpeter

    Every time I see a new car I point out that the wheel was invented thousands of years ago and dismiss it at “not new”. I am a well established troll on the internet.

  • http://www.luminair.co.uk Jason Thawley

    Love this, just like the old wind-tunnel test markers:
    http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQfeL_Ois

    The world’s not new, but it keeps changing.

  • Greenish

    Completely mesmerising! Glad it’s not near me, I’d lose hours watching it move.

  • Damian

    Technorama Facade by Ned Kahn is also very similar:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWIhkvgg6MQ

  • nikki

    Can it withstand a storm?