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Rainbow Machine wins prestigious award

Auckland Council-commissioned artwork wins globally significant prize

Published: 21 September 2020

Rainbow Machine has been awarded the prestigious Good Design Australia Gold Award.

Check out the Rainbow Machine in Māngere until 8 December 2020.

Commissioned by Auckland Council and now part of the council’s public art collection, Rainbow Machine was designed and built by artists Shahriar Asdollah-Zadeh, Patrick Loo and Sarosh Mulla, working with scientists and engineers from Callaghan Innovation and Ōtāhuhu Engineering to bring the artwork to life.

The Good Design Australia Awards received a record number of entries this year, with 840 projects submitted across 11 design disciplines and 28 categories from around the world.

Rainbow Machine is an interactive artwork that creates beautiful rainbows. It can travel to different locations and is currently in the courtyard at Māngere Arts Centre - Ngā Tohu o Uenuku, giving children and adults the chance to harness natural light and experience an “ephemeral moment in saturated colours,” say the artists.

Auckland Council Manager Arts & Culture Emily Trent is thrilled with the win: “We congratulate Shahriar, Patrick, Sarosh and the wider team, who all worked collaboratively to produce this magnificent artwork for Auckland."

Waitematā Local Board supported early concept designs and has hosted Rainbow Machine at Silo Park for two summers; in 2019 and 2020.

In October 2019, before this most recent award, the creatives’ hard work was rewarded with a win at the Best Design Awards, taking home the coveted Purple Pin in the Spatial category.

Previous Purple Pin winners in the same category have included the Waterview Connection (2018), the space in the National Library where Te Tiriti o Waitangi is displayed (2017) and Te Ara I Whiti / The Lightpath (2016).

Last summer Rainbow Machine artists took a moment to reflect on the way Aucklanders were enjoying the interactive artwork at Silo Park:

How does Rainbow Machine work?

Sarosh: You create your own unique rainbow by harnessing natural light. The joy of the experience is that no two rainbows are the same. You pivot the cone towards the sun, using two geared wheels (large and small). When the optimum angle is struck, natural light is passed through a series of prisms and mirrors at the top of the cone, refracting the light to produce a rainbow.

Are Auckland kids enjoying Rainbow Machine?

Patrick: We are ecstatic about how children have responded. Kids who don’t know each other team up and interact. They work it out. Some even show their parents how to use it.

Sarosh: We’ve seen walking school buses take excursions past Rainbow Machine. We’ve noticed that children have different takes on it: my son enjoys spinning the big wheel as much as he enjoys seeing the rainbows. Kids don’t instinctively think an object of this size can be controlled by them.

Shahriar: Children are curious and captivated by the yellow sculptural forms and the spectrum they see. The memory of the colour explosion stays with them and they tell their friends and family.

How about others?

Sarosh: We have people with different mobilities in our families and my mother has arthritis. She can operate the wheels. We’ve worked hard to achieve that.

Shahriar: The combination of art and science in this interactive work was important to us. Rainbow Machine connects design, art, science, engineering and innovation.

Patrick: People are always looking for fun. There’s something accessible about that. If it’s a cloudy day Rainbow Machine won’t be able to make rainbows. But it’s still a joyous object in a public space, even when the sun isn’t shining.

More about the artists

The artists behind Rainbow Machine are Dr Sarosh Mulla, a senior lecturer at the School of Architecture and director of architecture firm Pac Studio; Elam post-graduate, sculptor, painter and designer, Shahriar Asdollah-Zadeh who alongside his artist practice currently works as a design educator at the new school of Design; and Patrick Loo, an architect who has completed a Masters degree in commercialisation and entrepreneurship at the University of Auckland and founder of architecture studio Commonspace.

Sarosh says: “To think spatially about art is similar to being artistic about architecture. There is a wide spectrum of creative expression in both.”

Sarosh and Shahriar attended the same high school meeting in art class. Later they studied at the University of Auckland; Sarosh and Patrick at Architecture School and Shahriar at Elam. This long and close friendship is a key part of their strong working relationship.

Additional information supplied by the University of Auckland

Read more: Arts

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