Rain Bell [public art proposal]

“Rain Bell” Proposal Site


+  PEOPLE VS. SPACE . Richard Gray Gallery . John Hancock Building, Chicago, USA – Jul 2012 [+link]

+ One of venues of the proposal : Chicago River walk-side, next to Vietnam Memorial


Rain Bell is a bell shaped sculpture made of glass and steel, 15 meters in height by 12 meters in diameter, which I propose to install in the River Walk section of the Chicago River, in the grass field next to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. This sculpture will create a dome over the river walk path between the North Wabash Bridge and the North State Bridge that can be entered and viewed from both the outside and the inside out.

Ordinarily, a pendulum consisting of a round ball hanging from a stick swings from the top of the inside of a bell to create its ringing sound. In this art piece, a large circular staircase will serve as its pendulum, and its round ball, measuring three meters in diameter, will serve as the dome gate through which people can enter the bell. The circular staircase will lead to the top of the bell and a round glass balcony. Only one person will be able to take the staircase at a time.  The ground of the bell dome will be covered in grass and slanted from the rim of the bell to the center in order to emphasize the circular movement of the pendulum. There are also five circular steps around the interior of the bell on which passenger can sit down and relax.

I worked with Ho Chi Minh City based Architect Chieu Dinh Ho to calculate the metal structural resolution of this sculpture.

The inspiration for the piece comes from Hindu mythology. The bell shape resembles the Hindu universe which is shaped like a mountain or a bell surrounded by water. The location of the piece by the Chicago river brings to mind the confluence of a mountain and the ocean. Bells are universal objects that are used to waken people to reality, to celebrate important occasions and to comfort the human soul from pain. We are born, we serve this life, and someday we all will die. But life goes on. The continuous sound of the ringing of the bell overflowing in the air, like water, is a symbol of the infinity of life.

The surface of the piece is perforated along the axis of its structural support beams with thin rectangle holes. Each slit measures 12 x 180 meters. They run down to the wall of bell. They can be seen as a multitude of windows open to the air, creating the sound inside the bell. The sound made by the ambient noise flowing into the bell acts as its “ringing” sound.  The sound of our own daily life outside the wall of the bell combines with our own breath inside of the bell. In other words, the sound of the bell is the reflection of the sound made by human activities.

The Rain Bell can ring a sound of comfort, a sound of remembering the past, a sound of here and now. The Chicago River will hold the drops of the Rain Bell in its water, and together they will flow to the future.