These Giant Pinwheels Spin Transform A Building–Powered Just By Your Breath

Artist George Zisiadis is on a mission to make buildings a little less static and a little more fun. How does it work? “The short answer is magic,” he says.

Most buildings, seen from the side of the road, just sit there; however interesting the architecture might be, the action’s going on inside. And if someone walking by “interacts” with the building, it’s probably just to Instagram some aspect of the design. Artist George Zisiadis hopes to change that experience and make buildings a little less static.


In this design from Zisiadis, currently proposed for the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and Design, tubes in a plaza are connected to a giant 10-foot pinwheel on the side of the building. Blow in the tube, and the pinwheel will start to turn. Blow harder, and the pinwheel turns faster.

The design is meant to bring some of the museum’s ideals to life outside. “It’s a very participatory and interactive place, and they want people to engage with their art in a very hands-on way, which I find very empowering and inspiring,” Zisiadis says. “I wanted to extend this idea to the physical structure of the building itself.”

How does it work? “The short answer is magic,” he says. Keeping the mechanism mysterious is part of the design, which is meant to surprise visitors. But the process itself is actually pretty simple: Hidden microphones in the custom horn pick up sound as someone blows, and are connected to motors that make the pinwheels spin.

“Even though it’s made at a large scale, it’s just input and output and a little bit of processing power,” he explains. “That’s kind of the beauty and simplicity of it– it’s using very simple technology to create a magical effect.”

By giving visitors the chance to interact with the whole building, Zisiadis hopes to start to change how they see public space.

“This project is about the idea that people are important,” he explains. “It’s about re-imagining the way people interact with institutions, and showing that people can affect the institution, rather than the institution being this stationary thing.”


He also wants people to start thinking about how to make cities more fun– a theme he’s explored in other projects, like street art that turns heartbeats into music and ideas for traffic lights that turn into disco balls and ziplines between skyscrapers.

“I hope people realize that public spaces and institutions can and should be places of fun and creativity,” he says. “In fact, that’s the only way for them to thrive.”

Renderings by John James.

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.