Spinning windmill portal

Common materials are used in a very unusual way to create an 8m tall installation that allows visitors to touch, feel and experience the sensation of walking through a gateway of 5,000 spinning paper windmills.

The Wind Portal is a curtain-like  gateway currently installed in a large doorway at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London. Created by Lebanese designer Najla El Zein, in collaboration with lighting designer Maurice Asso, it is made with a number of different materials and techniques including paper windmills, hand-carved wooden joints, 3-d printed clips, plastic rods and an automated wind and light system that is controlled by a computer programme.

To create the installation, paper windmills were folded by hand, secured with hand-sculpted wooden joints and then attached to vertically suspended plastic rods with the 3-d printed clips. Electronic signals generated by the computer programme then control the release of air into the plastic rods. As the air flows, it escapes through tiny holes punctured into the plastic and blows into the windmill caps, thus setting the windmills in motion. Lights are programmed to dim and brighten along with the different speeds of airflow that are programmed into the system. The result is a display of changing shadows, sounds, windmill speeds and spinning patterns of movement across the installation. Alongside this, a ‘trompe oeil’ effect is created by the carefully calculated positioning of the rods and windmills. From a distance, the gate appears closed. But upon stepping nearer to the gate, it appears to open so that visitors can pass through.

Located at the junction of the new and old sections of the V&A, the intention of the installation is to create a heightened awareness of moving from one space to another.

To experience this spinning sensation yourself, The Wind Portal will be on display at the V&A in London until November 8, 2013. If you can’t see the installation in person, be sure to check out this video.