Art and Design

It's raining metal at Changi

People admire a giant kinetic structure at the Changi International Airport on Wednesday in Singapore. Claiming to be the world's largest kinetic art installation, "Kinetic Rain" designed and built by a German team is made up of 1, 216 bronze droplets that transforms into multiple shapes through slow fluid movements. The Singapore Changi Airport has constantly revamped and updated its establishment in a bid to remain one of the top ranking airports in the world. (AP/Wong Maye-E)
People admire a giant kinetic structure at the Changi International Airport on Wednesday in Singapore. Claiming to be the world's largest kinetic art installation, "Kinetic Rain" designed and built by a German team is made up of 1, 216 bronze droplets that transforms into multiple shapes through slow fluid movements. The Singapore Changi Airport has constantly revamped and updated its establishment in a bid to remain one of the top ranking airports in the world. (AP/Wong Maye-E)

A vast new sculpture of tiny metal pieces representing water droplets, titled Kinetic Rain, is making a splash at Changi Airport's refurbished Terminal 1.

Transfixed visitors of all ages watched it in wonder or took photos with their camera phones when Life! visited on Tuesday for a preview of what is billed the world's largest kinetic, or moving sculpture. It roughly spans the length of four check-in counters.

The sculpture was made by German design firm Art+Com led by design director Joachim Sauter. Jussi Angesleva, a German-based Finnish artist, was the project designer for Kinetic Rain. It officially opens on July 18, but is operational from today.

The work, which comes as a pair of sculptures installed several metres apart, consists of 1,216 'droplets'. Combining art and technology, each of these is attached by fine wires to individually controlled motors in the ceiling of the terminal's departure hall. The raindrops are computer-programmed to transform into multiple shapes ranging from an aeroplane to a kite to a hot air balloon - all drawing on various forms of flight.

One spellbound visitor was three-year-old Indonesian boy Fathi Nararya who said "wow!" several times and kept urging the droplets to "go up".

His mother, Widia Aryanti, 32, a Jakarta-based banker, tried several times to distract her son - over a 20-minute period he was heard telling his mother he was looking at it for the "last time".

She said: "This is very unique. Looks like my son will make us return to Singapore just to see this again."

The Changi Airport Group, which commissioned the piece, declined to say how much it cost, only pointing to the S$500-million (US$395 million) cost of the entire refurbishment exercise of Terminal 1 which will be completed by the middle of this month.

Artist Angesleva said from Bangkok in a Skype interview that the sculpture draws on "the wonder of flying and a tropical city".

When the 35-year-old first visited Singapore in early 2010, what struck him was the incessant rain.

He added: "Tropical City was the theme of the terminal revamp and it gave us the starting point for the work."

Over a period of two years, he and his design team toyed with several ideas and varied representations of droplets before coming up with the final version - lightweight aluminum 'droplets' weighing 180g each.

"One of the many challenges was the size of the droplet. It had to be light enough to move, yet strong enough to last," he said.

According to the airport group, Kinetic Rain also symbolizes the thousands of people who form the airport 'community' as well as the visitors who pour through Changi every day.

Angesleva calls himself "just one droplet" in the team, pointing to the 15 people including artists, animators and programmers who worked to bring together art and technology.

He said: "The piece offers various entry points even though it morphs into 16 different shapes in a 15-minute loop. There is no clear beginning or end to it."

Indeed, the sculpture certainly proved an attraction for visitors on Tuesday. Among them was Sydney-based Sharna Sutherland, 34, who was on a week-long holiday in Singapore. She spent an hour looking at the sculpture and said: 'I have never seen anything this beautiful at any airport in the world. I was early and as I walked in, it started moving.

"It has been so relaxing to sit and watch this. I am not much of a shopper and this is an excellent feature in the airport. I hope I do not forget my check-in time."

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