Award-winning Rainbow Machine brings ray of sunshine to Silo Park

Making rainbows when the sun shines

Last Updated : 03 Dec 2020
RM Chillbox Resized
RM 1 Serena Stevenson (1)

Rainbow Machine has returned to Silo Park this summer, bringing wonder, curiosity and playfulness to the waterfront.

“Already a vibrant place for friends and whānau to come together, Rainbow Machine now adds to the buzz of Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter,” says Auckland Council Public Art Manager Emily Trent.

She says kids of all ages can move the yellow cone to point towards the sun, adjust the wheels to get the position just right and then “look inside for beautiful rainbows.”

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.

Waitematā Local Board, who supported the early concept designs, is thrilled to be hosting Rainbow Machine at Silo Park again.

In October, the creatives’ hard work was rewarded with a big win at the 2019 Best Design Awards, taking home awards for Exhibition & Temporary Structure, Colour & Lighting Design, User Experience Design, and Spatial. The artists say it was a career highlight to be awarded 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).

Two of the recent winners, Rainbow Machine and Te Ara I Whiti / The Lightpath, are part of Auckland Council’s public art collection.

Judges said of the work: “An installation whose form and colour invites us in from a distance and inspires us to partake in the joy of nature. A clever intervention that transforms its environment, and vice versa. Makes you think about how much the city needs more fun stuff for people of all ages. This ray of sunshine injects joy into space.”

Rainbow Machine, brought to the city by Auckland Council, will be at Silo Park until Saturday 8 February 2020. Its next confirmed stop is Big Gay Out on 9 February 2020. Search OurAuckland, Facebook and Instagram for more information. #RainbowMachine

Rainbow Machine artists take a moment to reflect on the way Aucklanders are enjoying the interactive artwork:

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 the wider population?

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 to create an ephemeral moment in saturated colour.

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.

RM 4 Serena Stevenson

More about the artists

The artists behind Rainbow Machine are Dr Sarosh Mulla, 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 works as a designer at Pitch Studio; and Patrick Loo, an architect who has recently completed a Masters degree in commercialisation and entrepreneurship at the University of Auckland and founder of architecture studio OPL.

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 - Westlake Boys 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 collaboration.

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