Butterfly Wall - CODAworx

Butterfly Wall

Submitted by Charles Sowers


Client: San Francisco Arts Commission for San Francisco International Airport

Location: San Francisco, CA, United States

Completion date: 2011

Artwork budget: $150,000

Project Team


Charles Sowers

Charles Sowers Studios, LLC


Brian Schmalz

Electronic Engineer: SchmalzHaus


JW Nickel

Fabricator: Rocket Science


Susan Pontious

San Francisco Arts Commission


Gensler Architects


Butterfly Wall (2011) – San Francisco Arts Commission/San Francisco International Airport, Terminal 2, Children’s Play Area, San Francisco, CA. 12’L x 12’6”H x 1’W – Dichroic acrylic, stepper motors, custom electronics, glass & stainless steel casework. Butterfly Wall sets the conditions for the performance of an ever-evolving choreography set in motion by viewers who operate 10 hand-cranks to propel 20 mechanical butterflies up a cable to gently flutter back down again in a delightful random choreography dictated by the air resistance of their spinning dichroic wings.


The work serves as an interactive border between the children's play area and a busy passageway at the terminal. People can operate the butterflies on either side of the wall.


I presented the design team with several concepts and Butterfly Wall is the one that resonated. The architecture team at Gensler suggested the precise location and the bend in the case. I designed everything. Control electronics were developed by SchmalzHaus in close consultation with myself. Rocket Science fabricated and installed the casework.

Additional Information

This piece has been running 24 hours a day since April 2011.