Once known for its mills, the UK town of Burnley has developed into a regional center for engineering and advanced manufacturing. As a way of acknowledging the town’s pioneering role in the practice of measuring rainfall, architects at Tonkin Liu have designed an installation that embodies two of its major climatic forces. Entering into a dialogue with the elements is often expressed in the Studio’s work through the creation of a sensory output. Their Singing Ringing Tree sculpture, also designed for Burnley, uses wind to articulate sound.

The Rainbow Gate is located in front of the Burnley College, where three main traffic routes converge. Its shape is inspired by the town’s numerous viaducts, and it aims to frame the views of the surrounding landscape in a similar manner. Rain is channeled into the ground along the structure’s dynamic natural geometry, while 133 prisms capture sunlight and array it in a full color spectrum on the ground. At night, the prisms are lit from bellow, casting rainbows into the mist.

Anna Liu of Tonkin Liu explains the process:

“Our final proposal, Rain Bow Gate, is a bow structure that integrates many prisms to capture light and create rainbows. A new breed of single-surface structure we’ve pioneered with structural engineers at Arup, the structure uses advanced digital modeling, analysis, and fabrication tools. The transformation of light into rainbow evokes a sense of wonder, which we feel is at heart of education.”

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