Watch: See a Water-Inspired Art Installation Created With Close to 600 Kinetic Droplets

Stella Artois and celebrated their partnership—which is committed to ending the global water crisis—with an interactive, public art installation in New York's Grand Central Terminal.

The 'Water Ripples' installation in Grand Central Terminal featured close to 600 kinetic 'droplets' that reacted to people's movements.
The "Water Ripples" installation in Grand Central Terminal featured close to 600 kinetic "droplets" that reacted to people's movements.
Photo: Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Stella Artois

Since 2015, Stella Artois has partnered with—a nonprofit committed to providing safe drinking water to those in need—to expand the beer brand’s commitment to raising awareness of the global water crisis and sparking consumer action. To celebrate the impact of this partnership, Stella Artois and unveiled a public kinetic art installation at Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal in New York.

The interactive installation, “Water Ripples,” coincided with World Water Day on March 22 and was open to the public March 23 to 26. The unveiling of the sculpture included a panel with co-founders Matt Damon and Gary White, along with Stella Artois executives and journalist Tamron Hall. The water-theme kinetic sculpture took inspiration from the partnership, which to date has helped provide 1.5 million people in the developing world with access to clean water. The partnership’s goal is to provide 3.5 million people with long-term, sustainable access to clean water by 2020.

Each year since the partnership began, Stella Artois has presented a consumer call to action by introducing limited-edition chalices that represent countries where provides support. The purchase of one chalice helps the nonprofit provide five years of clean water for one person. The chalices have been available at Stella Artois activations, including the brand’s Sundance lounge. Chalices were available for purchase at a branded bar in Grand Central, but the main draw of the event for passersby was the installation, which was conceptualized by creative agency Mother New York and executed with creative digital production company MediaMonks.

The 36-foot installation was composed of 558 kinetic droplets made from thin, vacuum-formed polystyrene plastic—each of which were hand-painted on robotic, rotating droplet holders. The droplets, which were created by collaborative art, design, and technology studio Hypersonic, were connected with 15,700 feet of cable and 6,000 feet of wire. Passersby were invited to touch the center column in the installation, which initiated a ripple movement that made the droplets move in unison. 

Marie-Céline Merret Wirström, the executive producer of experiential for MediaMonks, and Bill Washabaugh, founder of Hypersonic, said their team spent a lot of time finding an elegant way to design droplets that were large, smooth, and lightweight, able to work with micro-winches, and able to move at high speeds. “The physics of moving the droplets are interrelated equations involving droplet weight, the movement speed, and the distance they move up and down,” explained Washabaugh.

“We really wanted to push the creative boundaries for how we could make the droplets move together fluidly and in a well-choreographed way,” he said. “Getting them to blend in well with interactive moments with the visitors was also a good challenge, and came out really well.” Wirström also noted that the biggest technical challenge for her team was setting up the installation in less than two days.

“The Grand Central Terminal team advised us that this was the tallest and most complex installation to ever be erected in Vanderbilt Hall,” said Wirström. “So integrating the structural engineering with the technical engineering of the kinetic sculpture—and the programming engineering—was a huge challenge overall for the project. Combining that with very little time to install, set up, and test prior to opening, it took an incredible amount of coordination, effort, and man hours with multiple expertise to accomplish an interactive art installation of this scale and kind.” 

See the installation in action below.

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