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Forty-foot tall windblown gyroscope installed at Central Subway stop

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The first of ten major large-scale installations

A yellow contraption with multiple jointed wings on top of a 40-foot pole next to train tracks.
Moto Ohtake’s design for Microcosmic.
Photo courtesy of SFAC

San Francisco’s new Central Subway, perilously behind schedule, has at last moved on to the phase where Bay Area artists get to install towering new pieces in and around stations.

Case in point, this week marked the raising of the wind-activated kinetic sculpture titled Microcosmic, located at the future Fourth and Brannan stop, a product of Bay Area artist Moto Ohtake.

Ohtake specializes in gigantic metal constructs that resemble space-age weathervanes or windmills, racking up an impressive portfolio of kinetic piece since 2005, including a number of others found around the San Francisco.

According to the San Francisco Arts Commission, the new piece sits atop a 40-foot marquee pole on the above-ground platform. Earlier plans for the contraption measured it at 14 feet by 17 with “31 rotating points” that can move in various directions.

SFMTA measures the final product at about 15 feet by 15 feet, noting that it’s the first of ten planned new pieces of large scale artwork for the incoming subway.

Ohtake’s artist statement credits naturalistic inspirations, ranging from “galactic bodies to the delicate patterns of crystalline structures.”

He designs his towering kinetic pieces to be “self-contained systems,” positioned in busy byways like Muni so that the gyrations of the stainless steel sculptures might provoke people to think more about the movements of the environment around them.

Born in Japan in 1952, Ohtake studied at the Academy of Art and SF Art Institute and teaches at De Anza College.

As the rest of the Central Subway (finally) moves toward its 2021 completion, more large-scale works will appear in and around its locales, including “two large-scale laser-cut metal” murals in Chinatown Station and a 110-foot-tall curvilinear sculpture by Roxy Paine at Moscone Station that resembles the root of a mythically sized tree bursting up out of the ground.