John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The city of Águeda is awash in a strange kind of street art.
If you're ever caught in a storm in Águeda, Portugal, head on down to the main shopping drag. You won't need to buy an umbrella, because there are hundreds of them floating right above your head.
Is this a tribute to the dozens of magical English nannies sucked into jet engines? Not quite. The meteorological meta-ceiling was recently installed by designers at Ivo Tavares Studio, a creative firm based in Aveiro that's also added splashes of color to an old convent and made perhaps the world's most soulful bed commercial. Far from being a uniform army of lockstep accessories, the field of umbrellas is stippled with oddballs like one standing upside-down and another group butting "heads." Imagine the scene if a hurricane blew through town – you'd be finding these things as far away as France!
Ivo Tavares wanted to "stimulate a traditional shopping street into an engaging visual experience," according to its submission at Designboom. "Colorful Umbrellas," as this public art is called, "transforms the public walk by providing an interesting variation of color contrast and hues with the correct amount of given daylight."
If you're surprised that there's such a thing as a "correct" dose of sunlight, then visit Águeda and have all your doubts blown away: The proper amount is about 3 minutes' worth, filtered through a blue and then orange-colored umbrella. The more you know!
Photos courtesy of Ivo Tavares Studio on Facebook.