Sculptures that entertain when it rains

Äußere Neustadt (“Outer New Town”) in Dresden is probably my favorite neighborhood in all of Europe; a future post or two will be dedicated to this neighborhood.

But for now, I’m focusing on a tiny, nearly hidden section of this endlessly fascinating, artsy half-square-mile area that’s home to 15,000 residents. This particular spot is known as Kunsthofpassage (“Art Court Passage”).

The small portal to the wonders of Kunsthofpassage, viewed from across the street. Click on any image to open the full-sized version in a new tab.

The translation is perfect, for Kunsthofpassage is a stunning complex of fully five courtyard that was designed by local artists. Each courtyard represents the vision of a different artist, and they all combine art and architecture. Each of the courtyards plays with rain, light and other elements of nature, such as animals.

Every wall on every courtyard is covered in art

My favorite of the five is the “courtyard of water,” which is designed to play music when it rains! The metal funnels and pipes attached to the building’s facade are all joined together, allowing naturally flowing water to literally ring through every pipe!

They also capture and filter stormwater; this is eco-friendly Germany, after all (Berlin has more acres of green roofs and solar panels than any other city on Earth; several future posts will feature Berlin).

My favorite wall in Kunsthofpassage

The colors are chosen to give the courtyard a vibrant but natural feel, while the gentle sound of the rain flowing through the instruments has a calming effect to both residents and visitors. I love when art has community-building and environmental value.

Now…What I am wondering is: Why on EARTH do Pacific Northwest cities not have *hundreds* of installations like this? We should be creatively and artistically CELEBRATING the rain, rather than literally piping it into the ground. Traditional stormwater treatment is often much more expensive (and obviously many times worse for the environment) than working *with* water in a natural way. Seattle has “Growing Vine Street,” which is a small step in the right direction. I’ll write about this and some other “green street” projects in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, BC.

The courtyards are all connected by beautiful alleys

But I have yet to see anything at all like this gorgeous set of courtyards in Dresden. Interestingly, Portland annually gets 39% more sun and 39% more rain than does Dresden. So, it looks like Portland is perfectly “balanced” with Dresden in its potential to have similar playful musical water courtyards.

Portland is awash (so to speak) in artists and placemakers. So, let’s do a major Village Building Convergence project that honors the most important molecule in the universe: H2O!

Yet another sculpture-covered wall

What do you think? Do you like it? Should projects like this be emulated in other cities? What other ways are there of celebrating naturally falling fresh water–or enhancing some of our billions of square feet of otherwise boring walls?

I couldn’t get enough of the courtyards, which are all connected by beautiful alleys–and naturally not a car in sight. So, here are more pictures to enjoy! As always, you can click on any image to view the much larger original size in a new tab.

A couple enjoying the courtyards

The full-sized version is right-side up. Depending on your browser settings, this version might be sideways.


2 thoughts on “Sculptures that entertain when it rains”

  1. I am thinking about this kind of application to more arid environments and on reservations. It would be interesting to see this approach applied in small Indian communities as one way to highlight native American art and address their blight issues.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *