Rain Portal

 Posted by on April 7, 2014
Apr 072014

SFPUC Building
525 Golden Gate Avenue
Civic Center

Ned Kahn's Rain Portal

Rain Portal by Ned Kahn.  Kahn has several pieces around San Francisco that you can read about here.

Ned Kahn’s Rain Portal is located inside the lobby of the new Public Utilities building.  Kahn’s Firefly graces the exterior of the building and you can read about it here.

Rain Portal seeks to permeate an interior architectural wall with rain. Drops of water falling inside of an undulating polycarbonate membrane suggests the endless cycle of evaporation and precipitation.

According to Kahn, “One of the paradoxes of the Rain Portal is that much of the entire history of architecture can be viewed as the endeavor to keep rain out. Here we have invited it in.”



The installation covers two walls located on either side of the lobby stairway. The installation is a self-sustaining system that continuously recycles water to create the illusion of rain inside the clear polycarbonate wall panels. The extruded polycarbonate has multiple cells of plastic that through which water is pumped up from a reservoir at the bottom of the panels and released as small drops into the top. The artwork was dedicated with the opening of the building in June 2012.

SFPUC Rain Portal

The installation of Rain Portal cost $24,800, and was done by Gizmo Art Productions.  I was unable to find what the piece itself cost.

SFPUCThese two plaques are not part of Ned Kahn’s installation, but rather part of the buildings effort to be one of the foremost water conscious buildings in the world.  An important reminder while California enters another year of sever drought.

Cloud Portal

 Posted by on January 16, 2013
Jan 162013

Corner of Washington and Davis
Golden Gateway Center

Neil Kahn at Golden Gateway Center

This sculpture is titled Cloud Portal and is by Ned Kahn. Kahn has several sculptures around San Francisco

Ned Kahn at Davis Court

Mist periodically emerges from the central void of a sculpture constructed out of stacked horizontal sheets of stainless steel. The mist alternately reveals and obscurs the view of the urban landscape that is framed by the sculpture. A collaboration with RHAA landscape architects the sculpture was completed in 2011.

Hidden Sea near Moscone Center

 Posted by on September 22, 2012
Sep 222012

321 Clementina

Hidden Sea by Ned Kahn 2000

Recipient Organization: Tenants and Owners Development Corporation

In late 1999, artist Ned Kahn collaborated with the staff of the Tenants and Owners Development Corporation (TODCO) and the residents of their housing projects to create a public artwork for the exterior wall of Ceatrice Polite apartment building at Fourth and Clementina Streets. The apartment is in the Yerba Buena redevelopment area.

Ned Kahn’s public artworks encourage people to observe and interact with natural processes. Upon talking with the advisory group, his concept for this project became to create a piece that captures the feeling of watching a field of tall grass blowing in the wind. Both Kahn and John Elberling, Executive Vice President of TODCO, felt that the residents would benefit from being offered a glimpse into a natural phenomenon, a bit of calm and beauty in the context of their increasingly dense and bustling urban landscape.

The artwork, “Hidden Sea” consists of 6,000 small aluminum “leaves” mounted in an aluminum framework and hinged to move freely in the wind. The individual leaves measure three inches by three inches and are held by low friction bearings. The entire 40-foot tall by 25-foot wide artwork reveals the shape of the wind and creates the intended impression of waves in a field of metallic grass. The mirror-like surfaces of the aluminum leaves reflect light from different parts of the sky and the surrounding buildings.

“Hidden Sea” was fabricated by Ace Precision Machine in Santa Rosa and assembled in Ned Kahn’s studio. Benji Young and Michael Ehrlich of Young Rigging in San Francisco installed the artwork at the beginning of the year 2000.

Ned Kahn writes of the context for this project:

For the last 15 years, I have created public artworks that use wind, water, fog and other natural processes as their primary medium. Many of these artworks were intended to reveal a hidden or unnoticed force in the site such as the air currents or the ambient light from the sky. The design of a number of these projects was based on an aspect of the natural history or geology of the region that was not commonly known. My artworks often function as small-scale “observatories” in that they frame and enhance our perception of natural phenomena and create places that encourage contemplation.


Firefly on the new SFPUC Building

 Posted by on September 17, 2012
Sep 172012

525 Golden Gate Avenue
Civic Center

This is the new Public Utilities building in San Francisco.  It is touted as one of the more “green buildings” built in the US. Four egg-beater-like wind turbines are on view behind a 200-foot-high, 22-foot-wide curtain of polycarbonate squares called Firefly.

Ned Kahn’s Firefly is a lattice of tens of thousands of five-inch-square, clear-polycarbonate panels that are hinged so that they can freely move in the wind. During the day, the ever-changing wind pressure profile on the building appears as undulating waves. At night, this movement is converted into light. As the wind presses the hinged panels inward a small embedded magnet connected to an electrical reed switch triggers the flickering of tiny LED lights. The lights are colored to mimic fireflies which are a threatened species due to their dependence on riparian ecosystems. The entire sculpture requires less energy than a 75-Watt light bulb.

 An artist from Northern California, Kahn replicates the forms and forces of nature. Kahn combines science, art and technology to integrate natural, human, and artificial systems, and his specific works emphasise natural elements, such as water, fire, wind and sand; how these behave independently, and how they interact.

After graduating from college with an environmental studies degree, from 1982 to 1996 he designed educational exhibits at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. He apprenticed there to Frank Oppenheimer, the centre’s founder and brother of atomic physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. Ned Kahn presents projects both in scientific settings and in art contexts.


Wind Turbine taken from inside the building