Overview The “Science of Light” installation in the main stairwell of the school merges the ancient art of stained glass with cutting edge technology to produce a transformative window wall. It gathers energy from sunlight in a visible and interactive way – as solar energy is gathered a glass spiral located in the stairwell is illuminated.
Goals In an elementary school specifically designed with various green features the intention in the window wall was to demonstrate renewable energy in an imaginative and beautiful context. By creating a positive school environment we felt this communicated a message of hope. The artwork was designed to delight, to teach, and to inspire. Delight coming from the transformation of sunlight into patterns and colors throughout the stairwell – and visible energy showcased in the LED lighting fixture. Inspiration and the teaching is accomplished through the innovative use of the solar cells embedded into the windows – offering an ongoing lesson in science, ecology, and the positive use of technology.
Process The project was initiated by DOWA Portland architects Barry Deister and Keith Johnson who were designing a public elementary school which showcased green technologies. There was a roof garden, windmills, a community garden and they wanted a highly visible “teaching” project regarding solar. An international collaboration between myself (the artist), the school board, a community group, the architects, a solar engineer and a German glass fabricator brought this project into reality. After preliminary meetings with all of the above I began design work to encompass the main stairwell of the building. Embedded in two panels are arrays of photovoltaic cells (thin silicon and metal squares that convert light into electricity). The energy is taken directly from the solar cells by the highly visible orange cord to a LED lighting fixture I designed for the stairwell. When the sun is shining the light is on. Christof Erban, an electrical and solar engineer, determined the design of the array. Once the design was finalized, I collaborated with Glasmalerei Peters GmbH in Germany to fabricate the painted and laminated art glass panels.
Additional In addition to the solar cells I used a grid pattern of laminated dichroic glass to enhance reflectivity and colour projection in the stairwell. This creates an ever-changing flood of colour in the main stairwell throughout the day and in every season. Under the main landing a sitting area was made for children, parents and staff to enjoy the transformative colour and light.
This gallery contains 11 photos.
Originally posted on Expect the Miraculous:
? I’ve been wanting to explore paper circuits for quite awhile, but I haven’ taken the plunge to do it. We got many supplies for paper circuitry through a Donors Choose project. We’ve tinkered with the LEDs, conductive tape, and coin cell batteries some in our makerspace, but a…
It’s a bright fluttery day in Exeter. I’m in a meadow watching the fresh-faced artist Helen Morse Palmer with a mallet knocking the stem of a red windmill into the ground. 1500 of these mills catch gusts of a breeze like prayer wheels.
Tck tck tck tck tck tck
There is a wow factor to this installation that’s been created with children from 5 schools in Exeter. You can see it from vistas all across the city and up close, there is a friendly, celebratory air that reminds me of childhood trips to the beach.
Surrounded, as it is, by redbrick 1930s council houses, it certainly adds something delightful to the location, and it has become a landmark moment in my memory.
15 years has past, and my recollection of that enchanting day is fairly strong, unusually bright in the fog of other events and experiences. Perhaps this is one of art’s most potent impacts.
What leaps out for me in my memory is the red, I recall the mills like giant poppies. I still have a sense of the wooden stems and plastic blades standing at waist height and my wandering, grass underfoot to the heart of the swirl of them and looking out at the city that is still new to me.
I noticed the wind; a mostly invisible force and source of much of the beauty in this piece. Here, in my present place in time, I often hear people say that ‘one of the reasons we as a society don’t value or even understand the role of energy in our lives is because we can’t see it’. There, the me in the past can clearly see the subtle, volatile and impetuous character of the wind as it tickles past. I can see humanity’s ingenuity and playfulness and I can see the awesome power of a community working together to create something beautiful.
“Encounters with art can make a lasting mark in memory. They evolve in the mind and resolve into meaning. It seems to me that many actions in life have a root in that which has meaning to the person. The memory of a work of art, piece of music or act of theatre, can continue to give us energy and impetus long after the event. Perhaps art is a source of renewable energy for the soul”
Time has past, tck tck tck tck tck,
I set up an arts and energy programme in 2013; moved to action no doubt by memories like this one. 10 years working in the sustainable energy industry and I know that art engages my heart and mind far more effectively than any report dressed up as it may be in emotive, press-worthy language.
My hope is that our communities and artists can find ways to work together to harness the power of beauty in our transition to a low carbon future. I hope that our arts and energy programme will help to share these arts products further afield and maybe there will be more landmark moments for more of us on our difficult journey.
- What are your first memories of energy?
- What works of art have left an indelible mark?
- Have any of these experiences inspired you to do something?