Thursday, April 18, 2024

World’s largest sundial to generate 400,000 kWh of electricity annually

Berlin-based artist and architect Riccardo Mariano has designed an innovative public artwork topped in photovoltaics generating electricity for the local community in Houston, Texas.

Named the Arco del Tiempo (Arch of Time), this regenerative and permanent solar photovoltaic artwork will be installed in the city’s East End, Houston’s Second Ward Complete Community, in 2024.

The artwork takes the form of a 100-foot-tall triumphal arch and serves as a gateway to Houston’s East End. Described as the world’s largest freestanding sundial by architect and artist Riccardo Mariano, the arch-shaped structure will be covered in photovoltaic modules to generate nearly 400,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year and provide shade for locals.

As a time measuring device, the artwork engages parkgoers with a magical light display each hour within a comfortably shaded outdoor space. The structure will project the sun’s rays onto the ground below through tinted glass apertures spanning the length of its ceiling. Each beam of light is uniquely composed throughout the seasons and hours of the day by the artwork’s geometry, which responds to the specific latitude and longitude of Houston.

Park goers marvel at the hourly display of sunlight that appears each hour at a central location underneath the arch of Arco del Tiempo (Arch of Time).
Park goers marvel at the hourly display of sunlight that appears each hour at a central location underneath the arch of Arco del Tiempo (Arch of Time). Credit: Riccardo Mariano

“This unique artwork is more than a sculpture. It is a renewable energy power plant. It is a monument to a new era of energy,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “The City of Houston has always stood at the vanguard of energy innovation, and the Arco del Tiempo (Arch of Time) artwork stands in that tradition, highlighting Houston’s role as an art city and as a global leader in the energy transition. We are inspired by the vision and creative thinking. Marrying clean energy, the built environment, and truly World Class art in Houston.”

The project is a result of dedicated work by the Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI), a non-profit organization advancing climate solutions through art and design. Since 2008, LAGI has been holding open-call international design competitions for cities around the world and has amassed a portfolio of thousands of ideas to demonstrate how renewable energy can be beautiful.

Arco del Tiempo (Arch of Time) will provide a beautiful venue for nighttime entertainment.
Arco del Tiempo (Arch of Time) will provide a beautiful venue for nighttime entertainment. Credit: Riccardo Mariano

The Arco del Tiempo (Arch of Time) was one such design, part of the LAGI 2019 design competition for Abu Dhabi (a Houston sister city). Through a competitive process, Riccardo Mariano’s artwork was chosen by the city of Houston to be implemented at full scale in Guadalupe Plaza Park.

Over its lifetime, the artwork will generate more than 12 million kilowatt-hours of clean, renewable energy – the equivalent of removing 8,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide. The designer said all the energy that went into its making – from the smelting of the steel to the drilling that puts the final cladding into place – would be offset through the clean energy it generates.