The Vision: See SF's Randall Museum's Coolest Work

Set sail for San Francisco’s Randall Museum, where local artist Charles Sowers’ latest work is causing heads to spin. Funded by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, Windswept is a 20-foot-high by 35-foot-wide permanent installation made up of more than 600 freely rotating directional arrows.

The work takes advantage of the museum’s lofty Corona Heights location—an ideal perch from which to observe the force and frequency of SF’s infamous Bay winds.

Fashioned after the wind indicators found on sailboats, the arrows are mounted in a grid pattern on the museum’s facade. As wind gusts and swirls through the sculpture, the arrows react, creating a kinetic dance choreographed by Mother Nature.

It took Sowers four years to complete the piece, including a year and a half to design and test the directional arrows. He was inspired by the swirling patterns that form when a gust of wind passes through a wheat field. “I wanted to transform a mundane and uninspired architectural facade into a large-scale scientific instrument,” says Sowers. “Our ordinary experience with wind is that of a single point of recognition—it’s largely an invisible phenomenon. The installation is basically a group of sensors that sample wind interaction at hundreds of distinct points, thus revealing the complexity and structure of that interaction.” Sowers hopes that the exhibit forces people to think more about the world around them and take notice of patterns and processes in nature: “Wind is something most people just don’t think about.”

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the May/June 2012 issue of California Home + Design.

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