Redesigning The Sky

What can rainbows do for the city? The rainbow is absolutely one of nature’s most funny inventions. Its beauty is maybe too much for human understanding. As a symbol, the rainbow is over-used though. Its appearance has become a huge cliché as an icon of love, a colorful life, and a golden future. Flickr is full of cheesy rainbow pictures taken in perfect landscapes, and songs about rainbows are mostly not among the most refined. The rainbow is hijacked by cheap culture, and needs to be set free. Why? Because the rainbow is an exciting phenomenon in its pure form: its size, its color and its temporariness are amazing. And the fact that nobody earns the rainbow or would ever be able to tough it is just fascinating.

Haque's Rainbow Proposal
In this world we design everything that we look at on a daily basis: websites, buildings, cities and landscapes. The question asked here is: why don’t we design the air? With rainbows that’s possible. It would make our cities look much brighter and attractive. Design and research office Haque has proposed to add artificial rainbows to the sky while re-using rainwater. The only things needed to converge are (1) water drops in the air, (2) sunlight shining from behind the viewer and (3) the viewer at a low altitude angle (approx 42* from sun path).

Manhattan Bubble by Buckminster Fuller
To decorate our cities with rainbows in the sky, adding sprinkling installation on top of the buildings will be enough. When the sun shines, of course. This idea is great, since I supposes that everybody would somehow love to see it. Although the idea and the symbol of the rainbow might be a little cliché, its beauty appeals to all of us. Moreover, I think this is one of the best ways to re-use rainwater. Wouldn’t it be great if each drop of rain could be transformed into a colorful rainbow? This takes my mind back to Buckminster Fuller’s proposal for a glass dome stretching across central Manhattan like a vast but delicate soap bubble. Nevertheless, Fuller’s effort was not to add color to the sky, but to find a new balance within the universe between man and nature.

Rebecca Cummins' Rainbow
Rebecca Cummins performed with a rainbow machine at the Canberra National Sculpture Forum, back in 1998. Her project called Rainbow Machine (for mid-night and mid-day) is an outdoor sculpture producing the water as well as the light. So no sun is needed here. Some more explanation about the project comes from the Adelaide Biennale website:

“With the Rainbow Machine, sunlight will produce the dramatic, highly saturated spectrum we are familiar with; high intensity artificial light will be used at night to create an unexpected, but beautiful colour band sequence. No two viewers see the same rainbow (in fact, neither do your two eyes). The spectrums created are virtual images caused by the refraction of light in the water droplets at an angle between 40-42° from your eye. Let the light fall on your back and follow your shadow into the rainbow; move and the rainbow moves with you.”