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Windswept in San Francisco, California by Charles Sowers Studios
March 16th, 2012 by Sanjay Gangal
Article source: Charles Sowers Studios
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.
Inspiration and Intent
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 characterized, to a great extent, by its relationship to the wind. Climatically, off-shore winds bring warm weather from the central valley while on-shore wind brings us our famous San Francisco chilly weather.
Windswept seeks to transform a mundane and uninspired architectural façade (the blank wall of the theater) 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.
A year and a half was spent in designing and testing wind arrow designs. A 4′ x 4′ prototype panel fitted with 6 different arrow designs was mounted on-site for a year of testing. A few arrows were also mounted outside an apartment window at Baker Beach in San Francisco’s Presidio where they were subjected to a year of intense wind and salty air.
Windswept is 20′ high x 35′ long. It is installed on an 40’s era 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 anodized aluminum. The arrow axles are mounted to a standard metal architectural panel wall system consisting of 25 panels. The panels had 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.
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