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A Weathervane Wall Turns Wind Patterns Into Data Art

Wind patterns made visible, thanks to a dead-simple idea.

We can generally tell if the wind is blowing north, south, east or west, but on a smaller scale, currents are a lot more complicated. And that’s something I didn’t really appreciate before Windswept.

Windswept is an art installation at San Francisco’s Randall Museum that celebrates the intricacies of wind interacting with architecture. To create the effect, designer Charles Sowers deployed 612 freely-rotating anodized aluminum arrows on a 20'x35' grid, each serving as a "discrete data point" of extremely local airflow to form "a kind of large sensor array."

With all of these data points firing at once, the result is fascinating and a touch hypnotic. Whereas I’d expect the entire wall of arrows to point the same way, they never do. Instead, it’s more like watching the Plinko of air currents, with every peg offering a largely unpredictable—but in retrospect inevitable—possibility.

As simple as the installation may appear, it actually took Sowers four years of development. "A year and a half was spent in designing and testing wind arrow designs," he tells Co.Design. A 4’x4’ prototype tested six different arrow designs on location for much of that time, and more arrows were mounted by Baker Beach to assess their durability in the Bay Area’s moist, salty air.

All of the field tests were worth the final product. The art installation is equal parts intelligent and fun. But maybe the most amusing part of Windswept is that it’s serving a secondary, fantastically ironic function: It obscures the museum’s air intake.

[Hat tip: ArchDaily]

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  • Al

    That's awesome. 

    For me, the ultimate 'form follows function' in information design is when the form of the representation is visibly being physically shaped by what it represents. It's not something to contrive a design by trying to achieve, but when the opportunity presents itself, the results can be amazing.