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Portland, Oregon

Weather Machine

This public art piece proves that in Portland even reporting the weather is a thing of whimsy. 

The Weather Machine is a spinning contraption located in downtown Portland, Oregon that tells the weather by producing a symbolic icon once each day to great fanfare. 

Installed in 1988, the art piece was designed and funded by a collaborative group of artisans and investors with the express goal of beautifying the area it was installed in. The columnar contraption rings out each day at noon with the trumpets of Fanfare for the Common Man heralding to all that its sage weather wisdom is about to be delivered. Then from the orb on top of the pole, one of three metal symbols rises up. If the weather is clear and beautiful, the machine delivers an abstract golden sun; if the weather is transitional or a bit drizzly, the machine produces a blue heron (the official bird of Portland); if the skies have opened and it’s a downpour, a dragon appears.

The Weather Machine is also adorned with stylized wind scoops that keep the installation in almost constant motion. The alarm used to blare more often, but thanks to a city ordinance the recorded trumpets only ring out at noon now. So while it may seem self-evident, anyone who would like to tell the weather by the installation will do well to visit it earlier in the day.