Arts in Transit
Aquilone pdf

11. Aquilone

Artist: Douglas Hollis, American

Title: Aquilone, 2006

Media: Steel and aluminum wind-activated sculptures

Dimensions: 9 sculptures, 20’ h.

Location: Shrewsbury-Lansdowne I-44 MetroLink station

It’s a windy day, and the nine, 20-foot-tall, identical metal, kite-like sculptures that make up Aquilone are twirling, fluttering and howling — activated by the wind. They sound like ancient pipe music that might be Native American-inspired.

Each of the elements is composed of a tetrahedral wind vane that frames 30 smaller perforated aluminum “tell-tales.” They are small wind sails animating the entire surface. The whole piece turns into the wind as the nine elements dance with each other. At the leading edge of each structure is an aluminum “wind-organ pipe” that brings the wind’s sound into the experience of the work. Pipes vary in length from about eight feet to ten feet, producing a series of harmonic tones as the wind rises and falls.

Hollis says the piece references the work of Alexander Graham Bell’s study of tetrahedral kites and Buckminster Fuller’s quest to understand the underlying structures of nature. He states, “This sculpture is part of my ongoing research into the motion of the wind and its ability to activate kinetic forms. I want to create a field of activity, an ever-changing experience of the wind’s movements to be seen by people waiting on the platform or those driving or walking by.” Aquilone satisfies Hollis’ desire to “…try and make places that have an oasis-like quality where people can pause to catch their spiritual breath in the midst of their everyday lives.”

During the 1960s and 1970s Doug Hollis constructed a number of wind-activated sound structures along the Niagara River. In 1983 he completed Sound Garden for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle, Washington, and, in 1988, Tidal Park in Port Townsend, Washington. In 2004 and 2005 he completed commissions for the U.S. Geological Survey and the Port of Los Angeles.



  • Describe what you noticed first about Aquilone. List other qualities as you continue to experience the sculpture. What do you most wonder about?
  • What associations come to mind as you look at this sculpture? For instance, does it remind you of anything else? Why do you think the artist positioned Aquilone the way he did?


  • Hollis likes to research and experience a particular site in the first stages of his design process. He is also interested in Native American culture. Research the history of the land along the River Des Peres watershed where Aquilone stands. Note: It was first settled by Native Americans and French priests.
  • Considering Arts in Transit’s goal to create public places that will be valued by the community for generations to come, how do you think this artwork serves the community now and in the future?


  • Find out what “aquilone” means and its derivation. Pretend these nine pieces can talk. What is their conversation among themselves?
  • In groups, develop questions about Aquilone based on your site visit and use your questions in interviews with at least five people about the work. Include their responses in a newspaper article for your school paper.


  • Hollis states that Alexander Graham Bell’s experiments with tetrahedral kites and other structures influenced his design of Aquilone. Research Bell’s experiments and write a report about how they apply to the sculpture.
  • Hollis also cites Buckminster Fuller and his life-long quest to understand the underlying structures of nature as an inspiration. Research Fuller and Hollis and write a one-page paper about the major themes in both of their works.


  • Make a recording of the sounds the sculptures make on a windy day and then use this in a movement piece with nine students representing the nine sculptures. Choreograph the movement so that the dancers remain stationary but interact by twirling and moving in place. Extension: imagine the pieces in different weather or times of day and create a seasonal performance using sound and spoken words.
  • Bring in different-size bottles, pipes or other tubular objects. Experiment making sounds by blowing across the top of the openings. After each person finds a soundmaker, divide into groups and have a call and response in groups and as individuals.


  • Research and build a kite. It may be based on the tetrahedron structure.
  • Use triangles in various sizes and numbers to create a flattened composition in black and white. One or more of the components must be folded and off the surface, creating a relief to be displayed with a specific light source.