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solar garden

Proposal for the 1200 Buildings project, Melbourne, Australia

Solar Garden employs photovoltaic panels mounted atop slender, steel rods to power a permanent LED lighting installation along the length of the Spencer Street median strip, from Rosslyn to Stanley Streets. By day, the impression is of a garden of solar panels, weaving in the wind, transforming the high-tech, utilitarian image of photovoltaic panels into a quasi-natural experience. By night, energy harvested from the Solar Garden is transformed into a dance of light of LED cattails, choreographed by the urban wind and the rush of air created by the daily ebbs and flows of vehicular traffic.

While The Green Spaces building at 490 Spencer Street is among the first carbon neutral buildings in Melbourne, the building appears anything but green. The building is located in a harsh fringe of the Melbourne CBD characterised by heavy vehicular traffic, and very light pedestrian traffic. With narrow sidewalks, a sixlane roadway with central median strip, and lowrise building fabric, the street has no spatial definition, and the neighbourhood has very little street life. At night, the dim light conditions and little pedestrian traffic creates a feeling of insecurity. Given Spencer Street’s role as a gateway to Melbourne, providing the route for the Skybus to Tullamarine Airport and for commuters to and from the Melbourne CBD, this situation is urgently in need of attention.

Solar Garden forges an identity for Spencer Street and West Melbourne, enhances the environment for local workers and residents, and makes the spirit of the Green Spaces and Fort Knox buildings visible, by utilising clean energy production and low-energy lighting. Although Australia is known as being the world’s sunniest continent, its solar energy lags behind others. Solar Garden seeks to increase awareness and extract the poetic potential of photovoltaics in order to add a sense of resplendent drama to the everyday, and lift human experience in this part of the city. Its site is the median strip, enabling it to impact motorists, pedestrians, workers and the neighbourhood as a whole. By offering identity to the area, the works improves the perception of the area, and enables the possibility of street life in this part of West Melbourne.


exhibited at the Atrium at Federation Square 2011