Many of our favorite clean energy technologies are those with designs that mimic nature. After all, Mother Earth has had millions of years to figure out the most efficient ways to take advantage of the sunlight, wind, water, and soil upon which we so dearly depend. Since trees and plants are the original photosynthesizers (i.e. they can turn sunlight into energy) they are often the inspiration behind some of the best solar harvesting technologies.
But while efficiency is of foremost importance, aesthetic beauty is a close second. A new solar art installation called “Photosynthesis” by designer Akihisa Hirata combines principles of modern architecture with highly efficient technologies to achieve an amazing effect that’s both beautiful and practical.
“If the human species is part of the biosphere, then the things we make must also be part of that natural world. No dichotomy. Just as the living order of our world knits together from micro-proteins to macro-forests, I want my architectural spaces to entangle the beautiful diversity of life,” said Hirata. His designs have be chosen for display in the Japan Pavilion at the 2012 Venice Biennale Architecture Exhibition.
The installation, created in part through a partnership with Panasonic, incorporates solar panels, batteries, OLEDs and LEDs in different capacities: First, a photosynthesizing “tree” uses a 3D arrangement of photovoltaic cells floated on clear polycarbonate “leaves,” unlike the typical flat “turf” or “moss” of horizontal solar panels. The shiny plastic surfaces randomly reflect the plants, lights and arched facades of its outdoor environment, mixing natural and artificial, historic and contemporary. Second, LED-mounted balloon lamps showcase a variety of light qualities. These very contemporary light “blossoms” create an even more magical mood when reflected in the surfaces of the pavilion at night.