SUN / WATER / WIND Art and the Aesthetics of Ecology in the Built Environment
Clark Rendall Master of Arts in Sustainable Interior Environments Fashion Institute of Technology State University of New York May 2017
Introduction With building construction and operation accounting for such a significant percentage of material and energy consumption, green building design is essential to a sustainable future. Green building design strategies include ample daylighting, stormwater retention and reuse, natural ventilation, and the use of renewable energy sources. While these technological strategies are key to reducing our negative ecological impact, a sustainable future must also include a cultural component built around a deeper collective understanding of our relationship with the natural environment. In promoting this understanding, architects and designers can play an important role in the way they design the built environment, not just through technological strategies, but also through aesthetic ones. Sunlight, water, and wind are all sources of renewable energy. In addition, these natural elements are taken into consideration in green building design through the evaluation of daylighting, water consumption and runoff, natural ventilation, and indoor air quality. In addressing the relationship between humans and the natural environment, these elements (sun, water, and air) not only apply to energy and environmental impact in building design, but are also natural resources that all living things depend on. I propose that through integrating ecological art features which somehow engage with these natural forces, architects and designers can enhance the experience of the built environment, to illustrate its interaction
with the natural environment, and our relationship with other living things. Green building design (and why it’s important) Building construction a nd operation has a tremendous impact on the natural environment, accounting for approximately 40% of energy use, raw material consumption, and carbon emissions in the United The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) States.1 rating system was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to give architects and designers a comprehensive guide to implementing sustainable practices in building design, construction, and operation. Such practices include, but are not limited to, the use of renewable energy sources, maximizing indoor daylighting, stormwater retention and reuse, and natural ventilation.2 What the LEED system does not address however, is how aesthetics factor into the sustainability of a building. While it may be difficult to quantify, the a esthetic qualities of the built environment can play an important role in developing the cultural component of a sustainable future. As a building is functioning sustainably behind the scenes, thoughtfully conceived art features can also illustrate these functions, calling attention to the interaction
“Benefits of Green Building,” U .S. Green Building Council , last modified October 2016, h ttp://www.usgbc.org/articles/greenbuildingfacts . 2 “Credits,” U .S. Green Building Council , accessed October 22, 2016, http://www.usgbc.org/credits .
between the built environment and the natural environment, and enhancing the experience for building occupants. What does “sustainability” mean? Sustainability is now a standard word in our contemporary vocabulary, but its meaning is often ambiguous, or can change depending upon the context in which it is being used. The concept of sustainability was popularized by Our Common Future , also known as T he Brundtland Report , published in 1987 as part of the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development. In the report, sustainable development is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”3 The report pertains primarily to the environmental impact of economic development, citing the distribution, consumption, a nd depletion of natural resources in relation to environmental degradation. The terms “sustainable development” and “sustainability” are often used interchangeably, but their use can vary depending upon who is speaking and what he or she is referring to. John Robinson notes that while corporations and government organizations often prefer the term “sustainable development,” speaking from an economic perspective, nonprofit environmental organizations more often use the term “sustainability,”
G.H. B rundtland, O ur Common Future: Report of the 1987 World Commission on Environment and D evelopment (Geneva: United Nations, 1987), 41, http://www.undocuments.net/ourcommonfuture.pdf .
focusing attention on “the ability of humans to continue to live within environmental constraints.”4 Contemporary discussion of sustainability almost always refers to three fundamental principles, as Sacha Kagan describes them, “a triptych of social justice, ecological integrity, and economic wellbeing.”5 These cornerstones of sustainability are often referred to as the “triple bottom line,” the three P’s (people, planet, and profit), or the three E’s (economy, ecology, and equity).6 However, beyond any sort of environmental, economic, or social mandates, in order for a society to truly lay the foundation for a sustainable future, there must also be a cultural component that expresses these values. As John Hawkes proposes in The Fourth Pillar of Sustainability , “Cultural vitality is as essential to a healthy and sustainable society as social equity, environmental responsibility and economic vitality.”7 In other words, beyond simply meeting the minimum requirements of the triple bottom line, a framework must be established to celebrate and encourage the sort of behavior that will surpass these baseline criteria.
J ohn Robinson, "Squaring the circle? Some thoughts on the idea of sustainable development," E cological economics 48, no. 4 (2004): 370. 5 Sacha Kagan, A rt and Sustainability: Connecting Patterns for a Culture of Complexity , (Bielefeld: transcript Verlag, 2011), 9. 6 “ What is green building?” U .S. Green Building Council , published February 18, 2015, h ttp://www.usgbc.org/articles/whatgreenbuilding0 . 7 Jon Hawkes, T he Fourth Pillar of Sustainability: Culture’s essential role in public planning , (Victoria: Common Ground Publishing in assoc with the Cultural Development Network of Victoria, 2001), vii.
Culture, and cultures of sustainability While it is easy enough to state the importance of culture as it applies to sustainability, c ulture is a broad term, and it is worth defining and considering what the cultural component of sustainability might actually be. Hawkes defines culture as “the social production and transmission of values a nd meaning,” describing it as “both the medium and the message the inherent values a nd the means and the results of social expression.”8 Kagan similarly describes culture as “the combination of values, beliefs, symbols, practices and ‘scripts’ or rationalities that organize a worldview in a society.”9 The cultural component of sustainability would then consist of both the inclusion and expression of values such as environmental awareness, economic equity, and social justice. In his book, A rt and Sustainability , Sacha Kagan looks in depth into what a culture of sustainability might consist and the role of, that art plays in expressing and manifesting such a culture. He presents the ideas of several other philosophers and social critics (Gregory Bateson, Ervin Laszlo, Fritjof Capra, and Edgar Morin), proposing that cultures of sustainability emerge from “systems thinking,” the understanding that we and everything else are part of “a group of interacting, interdependent components that form a complex and unified whole,” and “complexity theory,” the idea that complex
Ibid., 13. 9 Kagan, A rt and Sustainability , 95.
systems manifest themselves from chaos through selforganization among their many diverse components.10 This sort of thinking applies specifically to ecosystems and our understanding of the role we play in them, with complexity being represented through biodiversity within these systems. One key characteristic of a culture of sustainability would be moving away from a worldview that is anthropocentric (humancentered), and moving towards one that is ecocentric, which values and demonstrates an appreciation for all living things, on both a local and planetary level. Going f orward I will be focusing less on the economic and social aspects of sustainability, referring to a culture of sustainability as one that promotes an awareness and understanding of our impact on the natural environment and relationship with other living things. I propose that while a society should of course directly pursue the economic and social goals of sustainability, that if we develop a culture of environmental awareness, it will ultimately lead to economic and social wellbeing. Art and aesthetics in cultures of sustainability In developing and expressing a culture of environmental awareness, art and aesthetics will play a vital role. As Kagan states, “The expanded mode of knowing required for cultures of sustainability, is linked to an expanded experience of reality, to be achieved through
a heightened sensibility (to patterns that connect, to complexity and to the morethanhuman lifeworld in general).”11 This expanded experience of reality and heightened sensibility can be brought about through sensory experiences in our environments. In John Dewey’s Art as Experience (frequently cited by Kagan), the author talks about many of the artifacts from ancient civilizations which are now housed in museum collections, noting that “in their own time and place, such things were enhancements of the process of everyday life.”12 In discussing the role of art i n developing cultures of sustainability, while I will discuss the work of artists exhibiting within galleries and museums, I intend to emphasize that art can and should be something that is integrated into our everyday lives in order to enrich the environments in which we exist. As what could be thought of as a more contemporary response to the often cited Brundtland R eport, the Tutzinger Manifesto was drafted in 2002 by a group of German cultural thinkers as an amendment to the Agenda 21 for Culture, a program launched during the United Nations 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. While the Agenda 21 addressed the importance of a cultural component to sustainability, the Tutzinger Manifesto states that “If sustainability is to be attractive and fascinating, if it is to appeal to the senses and convey a meaning, then beauty becomes an elementary component of a future that has a
J ohn Dewey, A rt as Experience (Penguin, 2005), 5.
future.”13 Additionally, “it is critical to integrate participants with the ability to bring ideas, visions and existential experiences alive in socially recognisable symbols, rituals and practices.”14 With this approach, artists, architects, and designers can create aesthetic experiences within the built environment that represent and contribute to a culture of environmental awareness. In determining how these experiences might look and feel, Sacha Kagan describes the aesthetic component of a culture of sustainability as one which offers “complexity as experience,” placing an emphasis on “the pattern which connects.”15 Maria Elena Zingoni de Baro similarly discusses a new worldview in which “complexity, wholeness, interrelationships and connectedness, and the value of nature and all forms of life, are the key i ssues.”16 She goes on to assert that “immersive, aesthetic experience can lead to recognition, empathy, love, respect and care for t he environment.”17 I propose that these
T utzinger Manifesto for the strengthening of the culturalaesthetic dimension of sustainable development , 2001, http://www.kupoge.de/ifk/tutzingermanifest/pdf/tumagb.pdf . 14 Ibid. 15 S acha Kagan, "Complexity as Experience: The Contribution of Aesthetics to Cultures of Sustainability,” In A n Introduction to Sustainability and Aesthetics: The Arts and Design for the Environment , ed. Christopher Crouch, Nicola Kaye, and John Crouch (Boca Raton, Florida: Brown Walker Press, 2015), 2526. 16 Maria Elena Zingoni de Baro, “Beauty: A Powerful Force for Sustainability and Regeneration,” I n A n Introduction to Sustainability and Aesthetics: The Arts and Design for the Environment , ed. Christopher Crouch, Nicola Kaye, and John Crouch (Boca Raton, Florida: Brown Walker Press, 2015), 33. 17 Ibid., 36.
immersive experiences should not be confined to galleries and museums, but should be integrated into the environments of our everyday lives. In creating these immersive experiences, an effective way to illustrate our interconnectedness with the natural environment is to call attention to the elements which all living things depend on: sunlight, water, and air. By integrating ecological art features that engage with these natural forces, architects and designers can create spaces that raise awareness of our relationship with other living things, and the interaction between the built environment and the natural environment. Aesthetics of ecology in the built environment Ecological aesthetics are something that architects and designers have long had a sensibility for, from the use of natural materials in building construction, to the entire practice of landscape design. More recently, scholars and practitioners have given a name to specifically ecological approaches to design such as biophilic design and biomimicry. The term “biophilia” was coined by biologist Edward O. Wilson, which he defined as “the innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes,” suggesting that as “we come to understand other organisms, we will place a g reater value on them, and on ourselves.”18 From biophilia comes the practice of biophilic design, defined by Stephen R. Kellert as design that “fosters beneficial contact between
Edward O. Wilson, B iophilia (Harvard University Press, 1984), 12.
people and nature in modern buildings and landscapes.”19 Kellert’s Biophilic Design remains one of the most comprehensive guides for architects and designers who wish to integrate a biophilic sensibility into their designs, appropriately listing water, air, and sunlight as key environmental features.20 Another ecological approach to design is “biomimicry,” a term popularized by Janine M. Benyus, which she defines as “the conscious emulation of life’s genius. Innovation inspired by nature...based not on what we can e xtract from nature, but on what we can learn from her.”21 While biophilic design is focused on tapping into people’s innate connection with other living things through ecological features in the built environment, biomimicry involves actually modeling the built environment after other living things. In regard to building features which respond to sunlight, water, and wind, if you consider as an example how a tree interacts with these natural forces, it becomes clear that biomimicry is also an effective approach for designing ecological art features in the built environment. Art in architecture Art and architecture are closely related areas of study and practice. In many undergraduate classes, the history of art and 19
Stephen R. Kellert, Judith Heerwagen, and Martin Mador, B iophilic design: the theory, science and practice of bringing buildings to life (John Wiley & Sons, 2011), 5. 20 Ibid., 7. 21 Janine M. Benyus, B iomimicry (New York: William Morrow, 1997), 2.
architecture are taught alongside one another. Similarly, murals, columns, and other sculptural components which were once integrated into the designs of ancient buildings, are now housed in the collections of art museums, and are studied primarily for their aesthetic qualities. While art (painting or sculpture, for example) can be practiced without an understanding of architecture, the practice of architecture requires artistry and an aesthetic sensibility. From an engineering standpoint, a building must protect occupants from the elements and be structurally sound, but if a building only reaches these minimum requirements, it is unlikely to be appreciated and valued by its occupants. In order for buildings to engage their occupants, they must offer meaningful aesthetic experiences. In The Shape of Green , Lance Hosey discusses the role of aesthetics in sustainable design, first addressing the problem that much of sustainable design is or that too much attention unattractive, is paid to the function of s ustainable design, and not enough to the aesthetic qualities of it.22 He speaks of “invisible green” design strategies, and “visible green” design strategies, asserting that the “look and feel” of sustainable design is essential to its ultimate success.23 Within architecture, sustainable design strategies such as solar panels, stormwater management, and passive ventilation systems
Lance Hosey, T he Shape of Green: Aesthetics, Ecology, and Design (Island Press, 2012), 2. 23 Ibid., 3.
often remain invisible. By implementing ecological art features that engage with natural forces, artists and architects can move beyond the mere function of their designs, and bring buildings to life with aesthetic experiences that visibly communicate messages of environmental awareness. In speaking of the role that play aesthetics in sustainable design, Hosey states, “Longterm value is impossible without sensory appeal, because if design doesn't inspire, it’s destined to be discarded.”24 With the amount of energy and raw materials that go into building construction, it is important that buildings stand the test of time through being aesthetically appealing to their occupants. In Hosey’s words, “If it’s not beautiful, it’s not sustainable.”25 In discussing the role that art and aesthetics play in architecture, I do not wish to differentiate the practice of art too far from the practice of architecture, for there is significant crossover between the two: artists practicing as architects, architects practicing as artists, or collaborations between the two. Richard Serra’s monumental steel works (see figure 1) function on a scale that applies just as much to architecture and landscape as it does to sculpture.26 Similarly, Zaha Hadid will likely remembered be for her dynamic drawings and paintings (see figure 2) as well as her
Hal Foster, T he ArtArchitecture Complex (Verso Books, 2013), 140141.
fully realized building designs.27 Meanwhile, artists James Turrell, Robert Irwin, and Doug Wheeler (see figure 3) create installations which function as architectural interventions, works a bout space that create a dialogue with the s tructures in which they exist.
Figure 1: Richard Serra, E astWest/WestEast (2015), Zekreet, Qatar. Image © Nelson Garrido for ArchDaily
Figure 2: Zaha Hadid, V ision For Madrid (1992). Image © Zaha Hadid Foundation
Figure 3: Doug Wheeler, S A MI 7 5 DZ NY 12 (2012). Image © David Zwirner Gallery
Architects are perfectly capable of designing art features within buildings, and there are many examples of this, however it is worth discussing the potential benefits of architects collaborating with nonarchitectural artists. Charles Miller and Brad Hokanson discuss the roles of artists and architects in collaborative scenarios, describing the artist as representing “creative and radical exploration through unrestrained ideas, experimentation, play, and valued failure,” designating the artist as “the crucial ‘what if’ person on the project team.”28 Hans Dieleman explores the role of artists in contributing to s ustainable futures, stating that “Art is in essence, shaping, testing and challenging reality and images, thoughts and definitions of reality,” and that “since sustainability is a process of exploring new ways of living, new ways of being, doing and experiencing the world, art and design are obviously closed related.”29 While architects must often comply with strict building codes, potentially limiting their creativity at times, the implication here is that artists may have more experimental ways of thinking and working, ultimately leading to more unexpected design solutions. Both the USGBC and other leaders in sustainable design encourage an “integrative process” in which there is ongoing communication between
C harles Miller and Brad Hokanson, "The Artist and Architect: Creativity and Innovation through RoleBased Design," E ducational Technology 49, no. 4 (2009): 1821. 29 H ans Dieleman, "Sustainability, art and reflexivity," S ustainability: A new frontier for the arts and cultures (2008): 109.
all people participating in the design and construction process, including contractors, building occupants, and key stakeholders, in addition to architects and designers. If a building design is to include art features, it is important to involve selected artists in early design charrettes and throughout the design construction and process. Brief survey of early environmental art While I have discussed the connection between the practices of art and architecture, and the importance of art and aesthetics in sustainable built environments, I wish to return to the role of what I am referring to as ecological art features in building design. I will ultimately be discussing more contemporary examples of specific designs that engage with sunlight, water, and wind. Before doing so however, I would like to review some of the key artists and works in the history of environmental art, noting two contrasting approaches to the practice. environmental or ecological art movement emerged in the late The 1960’s, with a group of artists that began creating works that engaged directly with the natural environment. Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (see figure 4) may be the single most well known work of this type. Smithson’s “earthwork” consists of tons of rock arranged in a 6,000 1,500 footlong spiral in Utah’s Great Salt Lake.30 A similar piece
“ Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty,” D ia Art Foundation, accessed November 20, 2016. h ttp://diaart.org/visit/visit/robertsmithsonspiraljetty .
that is subtractive rather than additive, Michael Heizer’s Double Negative (see figure 5), is comprised of two 30footwide, 50footdeep trenches carved into the Nevada desert’s Mormon Mesa, involving the removal of 240,000 tons of earth.31 Walter De Maria’s Lightning Field (see figure 6) in the New Mexico desert is composed of 400 stainless steel poles approximately 20 feet tall organized in a grid, attracting lightning during storms to fantastic effect.32 While the piece interacts with lightning, a natural phenomenon, both this piece and the two others seem to emphasize man’s power over the natural environment, and our ability to severely manipulate it, an anthropocentric perspective as opposed to an ecocentric one. These works, while they engage with the natural environment, and are considered key projects within the environmental art movement, ultimately do not demonstrate a sensibility for ecology or sustainability.
“ Visit: Double Negative.” T he Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles. accessed November 20, 2016. h ttp://www.moca.org/visit/doublenegative . 32 “ Walter De Maria, The Lightning Field.” Dia Art Foundation. accessed November 20, 2016. http://diaart.org/visit/visit/walterdemariathelightningfield .
Figure 4: Robert Smithson, S piral Jetty (1970), Great Salt Lake, UT. Image © George Steinmetz for Dia Art Foundation
Figure 5: Michael Heizer, D ouble Negative (196970), Overton, NV. Image © MOCA
Figure 6: Walter De Maria, T he Lightning Field (1977), Pie Town, NM. Image © John Cliett for Dia Art Foundation
While the previously discussed works could be seen as manmade interventions in the natural environment, there are also examples of what might be considered ecological interventions in the built environment. Hans Haacke’s R hinewater Purification Plant (see figure 7) involved pumping wastewater from a sewage treatment plant in Krefeld, Germany into a gallery space, where it was then purified, emptied into a tank full of goldfish, and then routed to the museum’s
garden to water plants and r eturn to the local ecosystem.33 While being a temporary installation not directly integrated into building design, Haacke’s project is an early example of water reclamation, through onsite filtration and reuse. Today, Alan Sonfist’s T ime Landscape (see figure 8) might appear to be any other green space in New York City, a collection of plants and trees within a fencedin area. While the project was influential in the development of New York’s “Greenstreets” project, unlike most other green spaces, Sonfist’s was specifically designed to appear undesigned, in that the space was modeled after what the island of Manhattan might look like without any urban development.34 Through the use of native plantlife, Sonfist has allowed the wilderness to reclaim a portion of the urban environment. Walter De Maria brought the idea of reclaiming the built environment inside in his E arth Room installations. New York Earth Room (see The figure 9) consists of 280,000 pounds of earth emptied into the interior of a room, reaching a depth of 22 inches.35
Kagan, A rt and Sustainability , 280.
“ Walter De Maria, The New York Earth Room,” Dia Art Foundation. accessed November 20, 2016, http://diaart.org/visit/visit/walterdemariathenewyorkearthroomnewyork unitedstates .
Figure 7: Hans Haacke, R hinewater Purification Plant ( 1972). Image © Change as Art
Figure 8: Alan Sonfist, T ime Landscape (197778), New York City. Image © Alan Sonfist Studio
Figure 9: Walter De Maria, T he New York Earth Room (1977). Image © John Cliett for Dia Art Foundation
While all of these works originated during the late 1960’s and 70’s, we can see a change in the way the natural environment was viewed and utilized among artists, from starting as a medium, or a to be moved and shaped by the artist, to becoming both medium material and message, confronting the viewer in otherwise familiar environments, and encouraging contemplation of broader ecological issues. That being said, during the last several decades, there have been a variety of ways that contemporary artists have approached
ecological art, including community outreach and education, the restoration of polluted environments, and as Kagan notes, creating “works that employ natural materials or engage with environmental forces such as wind, water or sunlight.”36 This last category of works that interact with natural forces is one that has been less explored, but that I believe holds a g reat deal of potential, especially in regard to the possibility of integrating such works into the built environment, to create meaningful and engaging aesthetic experiences for occupants. The following sections shall investigate works that engage with these natural forces, including examples within the built environment, concluding with my own designs for future projects. Here comes the sun James Turrell is known for his installations which manipulate light to challenge the viewer’s perception of space. Much of his work involves natural daylight, including Meeting (see figure 10) at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, New York. One of several of his “Skyspaces,” Meeting consists of a small room lined with benches in which viewers can sit down and recline. The ceiling above has a precise rectangle cut in it, in such a way that that the surface of the ceiling is nearly paper thin around the edges of the rectangle, creating a crisp edge between ceiling and sky. A subtle color lighting program takes place between sunrise and sunset, creating varying levels of contrast
S acha Kagan, "Complexity as Experience,” 29.
between the two planes.37 By isolating the sky inside a precise geometric shape, Turrell transforms it from something which we would consider part of our surroundings, into what can almost be perceived of as a physical object. Through challenging viewers to see the sky in an unexpected way, Turrell may elicit a new sense of appreciation for a component of the natural e nvironment which is often taken for granted.
Figure 10: James Turrell, M eeting (198086/2016). Image © James Turrell 37
“ James Turrell: Meeting,” M oMA PS1 , accessed December 3, 2016, http://momaps1.org/exhibitions/view/170 .
Robert Irwin has similarly employed daylight in his work, perhaps most notably in S crim veil—Black rectangle—Natural light, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (see figure 11). First installed in 1977, and then once again in 2013, the work occupies the entire fourth floor of the Whitney (now the Met consisting of a black line Breuer), painted along the perimeter of the room, several feet above the floor, aligning with the sightline of the viewer. Across the length of the room, in the center, suspended from the ceiling, is a translucent screen, which connects to a black bar which also aligns with the around the perimeter. At one end of the room, on one side of stripe the screen, is a single skewed trapezoidal window, part of the original building design by Marcel Breuer.38 The window provides soft, singledirectional illumination to the expansive room, which is otherwise unlit. While the work consists of fairly simple components, the light from the window is perhaps the most important part of the piece, activating the space and the elements within it. Even the title implies that natural light i s in fact a medium being used for artistic expression within the space, not just as means of illumination, but an almost physical presence or thing to be observed.
“Robert Irwin: Scrim veil—Black rectangle—Natural light, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1977),” Whitney Museum of American Art, accessed December 3, 2016, h ttp://whitney.org/Exhibitions/RobertIrwin .
Figure 11: Robert Irwin, S crim veil—Black rectangle—Natural light, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1977). Image © Warren Silverman for Whitney Museum of American Art
Le Corbusier and Tadao Ando effectively employed similar techniques in their designs for religious buildings. Many people are familiar with peculiar exterior of Le Corbusier’s Chapel of Notre the Dame du Haut (see figure 12), with its grand, curving facade sprinkled with small windows in seemingly random locations.39
“Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp, France, 1950 1955,” Fondation Le Corbusier, Accessed December 4, 2016, http://www.fondationlecorbusier.fr/corbuweb/morpheus.aspx?sysId=13&IrisObjectI d=5147&sysLanguage=enen&itemPos=3&itemCount=5&sysParentName=Home&sysParentId= 11 .
Figure 12: Le Corbusier, Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut (195055), Ronchamp, France (exterior view). I mage © Flickr user Duncan Standridge for Dezeen
The interior, however (see figure 13), is perhaps more impressive, with each window selectively projecting sunlight through colored glass into the otherwise unlit and austere space.
Figure 13: Le Corbusier, Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut (195055), Ronchamp, France (interior view). Image © Colline NotreDame du Haut
In Tadao Ando’s design for the Ibaraki Kasugaoka Church, also appropriately known as the Church of Light (see figure 14), sunlight spills into the sparse interior through a crossshaped window at thin the back of the room.40 Much like in Le Corbusier’s design, light achieves an almost physical spiritual presence. By transforming sunlight into an iconic symbol, Ando links the beauty and power of the natural world to religion and spirituality.
“ For Visitors,” I baraki Kasugaoka Church, accessed December 4, 2016, http://ibarakikasugaokachurch.jp/eforvisitors.html .
Figure 14: Tadao Ando, Ibaraki Kasugaoka Church (1999), Japan. Image © Flickr user hetgacom for ArchDaily
Another building that u tilizes sunlight to fantastic effect is Eero Saarinen’s design for the Chapel at MIT (see figure 15). A sculpture by Harry Bertoia i s suspended from a round skylight near the back of the room, with hundreds of small angled metallic rectangles adhered to wires, like a cascade of reflective confetti frozen in time. The metal pieces catch the light of the sun, creating the appearance of a shimmering waterfall just beyond the altar.41 The building itself is round, with a moat surrounding the exterior. Coves along the interior walls (see figure 16) allow additional sunlight to
“ CAC MIT Chapel,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology, accessed December 4, 2016, http://studentlife.mit.edu/cac/eventservicesspaces/eventspaces/mitchapel .
reflect off the water and upwards onto the walls, creating a dynamic rippling effect as the water moves in the wind. Not only is this project one that employs multiple natural elements, but it’s also an excellent example of a collaboration between an architect and a sculptor.
Figure 15: Eero Saarinen and Harry Bertoia, MIT Chapel and Altarpiece (1955), Cambridge, MA. Image © Jim Stephenson for Dezeen
Figure 16: Eero Saarinen, MIT C hapel (1955), Cambridge, MA (interior wall view). Image © Flickr user @archphotographr
It is interesting to note that these last three projects all happen to be churches. The t echnique of employing sunlight to elicit profound spiritual experiences has been utilized in religious buildings for centuries, from the oculus of the Roman Pantheon, to the stained glass windows of medieval cathedrals. Whether alluding to heaven or some other form of holy light, it makes sense to harness the power of the sun to inspire a sense of reverence in churchgoers. I propose, however, that by employing these same design techniques in more secular environments, we can inspire a sense of reverence in people that applies directly to the sun and the natural world. 31
James Carpenter and his design associates create dynamic building components through exploiting “the performative aspects of natural light.”42 In his design for the Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis (yes, another church [see figure 17]), horizontal and vertical structural glass prisms reflect and transmit light behind the altar, creating an angular intersecting stripe pattern, which transforms throughout the day as the sun moves across the sky.43 This technique, was later applied to a secular structure in D ichroic Light Field (see figure 18), Carpenter’s design for the facade of the Millennium Tower in New York Upper West Side. In this piece, a City’s series of glass bars protrude from the intersections in a grid of flat glass panels. The dichroic glass used in the piece reflects and transmits a variety of colors depending upon the angle of the sun, and the angle from which the piece is being viewed, creating an array of angled reflections and shadows across the facade of the building.44 Both pieces by Carpenter employ the element of time, drawing attention to the position of the planet in relation to the sun, not only throughout each day, but also throughout the year. The cosmic implications of Carpenter’s work encourage viewers to consider a world
“ Firm,” J ames Carpenter Design Associates Inc ., accessed December 5, 2016, h ttp://www.jcdainc.com/firm . 43 “ Structural Glass Prisms,” J ames Carpenter Design Associates Inc , accessed December 5, 2016, http://www.jcdainc.com/projects/structuralglassprisms . 44 “ Dichroic Light Field,” J ames Carpenter Design Associates Inc ., accessed December 5, 2016, http://www.jcdainc.com/projects/dichroiclightfield2 .
beyond their immediate environment, and see things from a less anthropocentric perspective.
Figure 17: James Carpenter, Christian Theological Seminary (1987), Indianapolis, IN. Image © James Carpenter Design Associates, Inc.
Figure 18: James Carpenter, D ichroic Light Field (1995), New York City. Image © James Carpenter Design Associates, Inc.
Jean Nouvel creates dynamic daylighting effects in his designs through the use of intricately patterned facades. Much like Carpenter’s designs, Nouvel’s are also constantly changing with the movement of the sun. In his design for the Arab World Institute in Paris (see figure 19), the southern facade consists of numerous mechanical apertures connected to photoelectric cells. The apertures open and close depending upon the intensity of the sun, allowing varying levels of daylight i nto the building throughout the day.45 Functioning almost like the iris in the eye of a living thing, the
“Architecture,” I nstitut Du Monde Arabe , accessed December 10, 2016, https://www.imarabe.org/en/architecture .
design skillfully implements technology for both functional and aesthetic purposes. Currently under construction, Nouvel’s design for the Louvre Abu Dhabi (see figure 20) consists of a massive dome of intersecting metal lattice pieces. Sunlight enters through spaces between the beams, creating a “rain of light” which across a scatters reflecting pool within the bright interior.46 Both designs bring to mind the intricately carved latticework of mashrabiyas in early Arabic architecture. In what could be considered early examples of green architecture, these patterned screens allow sunlight and natural ventilation into a building, while still allowing privacy and creating aesthetic interest.
Figure 19: Jean Nouvel, Arab World Institute (1987), Paris, France. Image © Georges Fessy for ArchDaily 46
“An island of its own, a museography of dialogues,” L ouvre Abu Dhabi . accessed December 11, 2016, http://louvreabudhabi.ae/en/building/pages/architecture.aspx .
Figure 20: Jean Nouvel, Louvre Abu Dhabi (rendering, currently under construction). Image © Ateliers Jean Nouvel for ArchDaily
Peter Erskine is an artist who also uses sunlight to project distinct patterns onto architectural interiors. By strategically placing lasercut prisms, he separates sunlight into the colors the of spectrum, painting the space with rainbows (see figure 21). His website declares the ecological intention of his work, stating that it is centered around “three big ideas: (1) Sunlight is energy, (2) all life is solar powered, [and] (3) everything is connected to everything else,” with sunlight being “not only the subject matter of the work, but the medium and energy source as well.”47
“About: What is Erskine Solar Environmental Art?” E rskine Solar Art . accessed December 11, 2016. http://erskinesolarart.net/whatissolarenvironmentalart/ .
Figure 21: Peter Erskine, N ew L ight on Rome (2000). Image © Erskine Solar Art
Also known for creating immersive experiences through the manipulation of light and space, Olafur Eliasson used sunlight and glass to create a rainbow of a different scale in Y our rainbow panorama (see figure 22). On the roof of the ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum in Denmark, Eliasson designed a 150meter, doublesided, glasswalled ring, in which visitors can walk and get a 360degree view of the city skyline.48 While the work very much has to do with the colorful views of the city that visitors see through the glass, it also has to do with the transformation of t he interior space. Existing between what
“ Your rainbow panorama, 20062011,” Studio Olafur Eliasson , accessed December 11, 2016, http://olafureliasson.net/archive/artwork/WEK100551/yourrainbowpanorama .
could be seen as two giant, continuous stained glass windows, visitors can hold out their hands, and see themselves and those around them change colors as they pass through the space.
Figure 22: Olafur Eliasson, Y our rainbow panorama (2011), ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark. Image © S tudio Olafur Eliasson
Through projection, reflection, pattern, color, and the shaping of space, all of the architects and artists discussed have created environments in which sunlight becomes something more than simply While some techniques have been more exploited than illumination. others, these projects can s erve as examples for what is possible in creating environments that engage with sunlight, and offer points of
reference for artists and designers to further develop this area of practice. Water, water everywhere While Olafur Eliasson is well known for his immersive installations involving light and color, he has also created many pieces using water. In R iverbed (see figure 23) at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, Eliasson convincingly transformed the galleries into a landscape with rocks, soil, and a fully functional river, flowing between several rooms of the museum. Guests were allowed to roam the area freely, picking up stones and running their hands through the water if t hey wished to.49
Figure 23: Olafur Eliasson, Riverbed (2014). Image © Louisiana Museum of Modern Art 49
“ Riverbed, 2014,” S tudio Olafur Eliasson , accessed January 8, 2017, http://olafureliasson.net/archive/artwork/WEK108986/riverbed .
In his New York City Waterfalls project (see figure 24), Eliasson constructed several structures of metal scaffolding, pumps, and hoses along the East River, including one location under the Brooklyn Bridge. The constructed apparati were able to pump water from the river upward, and then release it in broad much like a natural sheets, waterfall.50
Figure 24: Olafur Eliasson, T he New York City Waterfalls (2008). Image © Julienne Schaer for Public Art Fund
Random International brought falling water indoors with their Rain Room installation (see figure 25), which took place at the Museum
“ The New York City Waterfalls, 2008,” Studio Olafur Eliasson , accessed January 8, 2017, http://olafureliasson.net/archive/artwork/WEK100345/thenewyorkcitywaterfal ls .
of Modern Art and several other locations between 2013 and 2016. In this project, a dense grid of water spouts were assembled on the ceiling of a darkened room. Connected to sensors which could detect the presence of people below, these spouts let down a continuous shower, except in areas where a person present. Visitors could was essentially walk through the field of water, being surrounded by rain, but without getting wet.51 In addition to the sound of the falling water, the experience was enhanced by a bright light at the back of the room, which illuminated the water, and transformed participants into silhouettes.
Figure 25: Random International, R ain Room (2013). Image © Random International
“ Rain Room / EXPO 1 at MoMA,” Random International, accessed January 8, 2017, https://randominternational.com/exhibitions/rainroomexpo1atmoma/ .
While all of these projects are excellent examples of engaging sensory environments that utilize water in ways that refer to ecology, they could all be categorized as simulations of natural phenomena. They serve as demonstrations of our ability to shape and move materials in order to mimic aspects of the natural environment (rivers, waterfalls, and rain). I consider them to be effective and successful works of waterbased art, but in regard to addressing ecology and our relationship with the natural environment, I believe we need to look further towards finding works that are somehow activated by natural water systems, in which aspects of the built environment respond to stimuli from natural waterbased phenomenon. There are very few examples of works that engage directly with natural water systems in a w ay that is apparent to the viewer. Perhaps the most successful piece I was able to find is N ikola Bašić’s S ea in Zadar, Croatia (see figure 26). On the shore of the Adriatic Organ Sea, these marble steps contain 35 organ pipes. Much in the way a church pipe organ functions, waves from the sea force air through the pipes, creating different tones and chords.52 The unpredictable movement of water and air is transformed into a constantly changing song, coming from slots carved in the hollow steps.
Carla Herreria, “This Croatian ‘Sea Organ’ Uses Wind And Waves To Create Enchanting Harmonies,” T he Huffington Post , published March 30, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/30/seaorganzadarcroatia_n_6959360.htm l .
Figure 26: Nikola Bašić, S ea Organ (2005), Zadar, Croatia. Image © Flickr user linssimato for Inhabitat
Artist Ned Kahn harnessed the force of the sea in a similar fashion but to different effect in his 1993 piece, W avespout ﴾Breathing Sea﴿ in San Buenaventura, California (see figure 27). Over the Pacific Ocean, an opening in a pier reveals a wide pipe curved into a tight spiral. One end of the pipe is pointed upward, capped with a panel containing a small hole in the center, while the other end descends into the water below.53 The ocean waves push water in and out of the pipe, forcing a m ixture of air and water through the hole at the end, creating a spray much like a whale’s blowhole.
“ Wavespout (Breathing Sea),” N ed Kahn Studios , accessed February 4, 2017, h ttp://nedkahn.com/portfolio/wavespoutbreathingsea/ .
Illustrating the ocean as inhaling and exhaling suggests that perhaps the body of water is a living, breathing organism itself. (The pier on which this piece was built was severely damaged in 1996, and this work has unfortunately since been destroyed.)
Figure 27: Ned Kahn, W avespout ﴾Breathing Sea﴿ (1993, destroyed in 1996), San Buenaventura, CA. Image © Ned K ahn
In Dubai, artist Jaume Plensa used water to create sound for his installation within the Burj Khalifa. World Voices (see figure 28) consists of 196 golden cymbals (each representing a country the of world) suspended over two shallow pools. Nozzles in the ceiling release droplets of water which then hit the cymbals, causing them to resonate.54 While the water d roplets in this piece are timed and released by mechanical components, it is interesting to note the way that water is used to strike percussion instruments, and consider how raindrops might be utilized to create a similar effect.
“World Voices, 2010,” J aume Plensa , accessed April 16, 2017, http://jaumeplensa.com/index.php/worksandprojects/projectsinpublicspace/i tem/251worldvoices2010 .
Figure 28: Jaume Plensa, W orld Voices (2010), Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE. Image © SOM
Further east, in Singapore, Gardens by the Bay is a vast nature park home to 18 S upertrees ( see figure 29). These tall flared 45
funnellike structures designed by Grant Associates serve as rainwater harvesting apparati, with the water being used to irrigate the surrounding gardens and power turbines which generate electricity. The latticed facades also serve as an armature for viney tropical plants, while many trees are equipped with photovoltaic cells, generating additional electricity to power an evening light show among the trees. 55
Although the rainwater harvesting capabilities and photovoltaic
cells may not be apparent to visitors, the Supertrees are an example of sculptural forms which are integrated into the infrastructure of the built environment, and p art of its sustainable operation.
Figure 29: Grant Associates, S upertrees (2013), Gardens by the Bay, Singapore. Image © Grant Associates
Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl is an international design collective organized around the idea that “ water plays an essential role in the
“ Gardens by the Bay Supertrees,” G rant Associates , accessed January 29, 2017, h ttp://grantassociates.uk.com/projects/supertrees/ .
vitality of urban life.”56 Their landscaping projects in cities across the world integrate urban landscape design with stormwater management and habitat revitalization for plants and wildlife. In their design for Tanner Springs Park in P ortland, Oregon (see figure 30), local stormwater is directed into what is essentially a restored wetland, with native plants growing in shallow pools among stone steps and walking paths.57 Once again, while it may not be apparent to visitors that this urban park plays a role in stormwater management, it is an excellent example of a design solution that integrates aesthetic considerations with infrastructure. For future waterbased projects, it may be a matter of combining the kinetic, performative aspects of Sea Organ and W avespout with the infrastructural aspects of the projects in Oregon and Singapore, illustrating a more cooperative relationship between water and the built environment. It is also worth considering the role that plants can play in illustrating water as a source of life, and how art features could be combined with water harvesting and irrigation systems for plant life.
“ Liveable Cities,” R amboll Studio Dreiseitl , accessed February 4, 2017, h ttp://www.dreiseitl.com/en/studio . 57 “ Tanner Springs Park.” R amboll Studio Dreiseitl . accessed February 4, 2017. h ttp://www.dreiseitl.com/en/portfolio#tannerspringspark .
Figure 30: Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl, Tanner Springs Park (2010), Portland, OR. Image © CMS Collaborative
Another project by Ned Kahn, also in Singapore, comes very close to illustrating this point. T ipping Wall , a collaboration with architect Moshe Safdie, consists of 10,000 hinged metal channels on the facade of a cooling tower (see figure 31). Water entering each channel causes it to tip left or right, pouring water into the channel below, creating a dynamic cascading effect across the surface of the tower.58 While this piece does not directly interact with natural water systems, the water is continuously reused, and it is an example of an aesthetic feature which interacts with the infrastructural operation of a building. The heating and cooling process is transformed into a sort of kinetic performance to be experienced by the viewer.
“ Tipping Wall,” N ed Kahn Studios , accessed January 29, 2017, http://nedkahn.com/portfolio/tippingwall/ .
Figure 31: Ned Kahn, T ipping Wall (2011), Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. Image © Ned Kahn
At the Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, New York, John Todd’s E coMachine (see figure 32) provides onsite treatment for all water used on the premises. Through the work of “ microscopic algae, fungi, b acteria, plants, and snails,” water is treated without chemicals, a nd released safely into the ground to return to local aquifers.59 The “machine” consists of both indoor and outdoor components, with vegetated pools in a greenhouse, and landscaped wetlands which further filter the water. Visitors can not only walk among the various components, viewing the machine in action, but there is also educational programing at the center to teach people how the machine works. While I would hesitant to categorize it as be an “art feature,” the EcoMachine is an excellent example of green building technology and infrastructure made visible and tangible to building users.
“ ECO MACHINE™,” O mego Center for Sustainable Living , accessed February 26, 2017, https://eomega.org/omegainaction/keyinitiatives/omegacenterforsustainabl eliving/ecomachine%E2%84%A2 .
Figure 32: John Todd, E coMachine (2009) Center for Sustainable Living, Rhinebeck, NY. Image © Architizer
Like some of the works involving sunlight, many waterbased projects also involve movement. While the movement of the sun is slow and observed over the course of an entire day or year, the movement of is quick, and easily s een. Not only can the movement of water be water seen, but it can also be heard, with sound also being a component of some of these waterbased works. Many projects also involve aesthetic features of the built environment integrated into water infrastructure processes, such as rainwater harvesting, stormwater mitigation, water purification, and irrigation for plant life.
There are limited examples of works which directly interact with natural water systems, and for those that do exist, the way in which they interact is not always clear. There are many water features in the built environment that reuse harvested rainwater, but rarely is it apparent to the viewer. Part of new waterbased projects developing within the built environment will involve making these processes and interactions observable to t he viewer. This may involve designing more dynamic rainwater harvesting and irrigation systems which store and redirect water into spouts or streams, with sound and visible movement activated by rainfall. The Supertrees also offer a unique precedent in being not only integrated into stormwater retention and irrigation but also a source of renewable energy. Blowing in the wind Much of my interest in works that interact with natural elements comes from their capacity to illustrate our connection other with living things. Both humans and animals depend on the sun for warmth and illumination, while plants require it for the process of photosynthesis. Plants and animals alike need water for hydration, and lastly, we all need air to breathe. Wind is the movement of air, and the way in which we can observe it with our senses. Artist Theo Jansen demonstrates the lifegiving power of air quite literally with his Strandbeests , skeletal structures of plastic pipes and bottles which
are animated by the wind (see figure 33).60 These mechanical animals can be seen marching across beaches in the Netherlands, propelled only by the sea breeze.
Figure 33: Theo Jansen, S trandbeest . Image © Peabody Essex Museum
Janet Echelman’s works similarly have a life of their own. Her sprawling multicolor fishnet structures (see figure 34) stretch between buildings, resembling jellyfish or amoebas morphing and
“ Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests,” S trandbeest , accessed February 4, 2017, http://www.strandbeest.com/beests_storage.php .
rippling in the wind.61 The weblike forms physically illustrate the concept of interconnectivity common to systems thinking.
Figure 34: Janet Echelman, A s I f It Were Already Here (2015), Boston, MA. Image © Melissa Henry for Janet Echelman
Anthony Howe gained international attention when one of his sculptures was integrated into the design for the cauldron at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro (see figure 35). The rotating polished metal plates and spheres spiraled throughout the duration of the games, reflecting fire from the cauldron to dramatic effect.
“About,” J anet Echelman , accessed February 5, 2017, http://www.echelman.com/about/ .
Figure 35: Anthony Howe, R io 2016 Olympic cauldron , Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo © Filipe Costa
While being one of his largest and most widely viewed pieces to date, he has many other outdoor kinetic sculptures which remain in motion through the power of the wind, while reflecting the light of the sun figure 36). His ringshaped constructions of shiny metal discs (see
and beads, appear to simultaneously expand and contract as they continuously rotate with the smooth biomorphic movement of a jellyfish or amoeba.62 The perpetual, fluid movement of Howe’s work calls to mind the movement of wind turbines, which makes me consider ways in which art features might be sources of renewable energy.
Figure 36: Anthony Howe, L ucea II (2015). Image © Anthony Howe
“ Lucea II.” A nthony Howe . accessed February 18, 2017. http://howeart.net/projects/lucea/ .
While the power of wind can be demonstrated through motion, it can also be done so through sound. Architects Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu turned wind into music with their Singing Ringing Tree , located on a hilltop in Burnley, England (see figure 37). Much like the sound made by blowing across the top of a bottle, this twisting sculpture of openended metal tubes, catches the hillside wind, transforming it into different musical tones.63 As the wind changes direction, the tree resonates with a constantly changing song.
Figure 37: Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu, S inging Ringing Tree (2006), Burnley, England. Image © Tonkin Liu
“ Singing Ringing Tree,” T onkin Liu , accessed February 26, 2017, http://www.tonkinliu.co.uk/projects/singingringingtree .
Harry Bertoia, while known f or his angular lightreflecting pieces, is also well known for his “sonambient” sculptures, clusters of metal rods which resonate when hit against each other. Although most of his works were set indoors and require human touch to be activated, he created several outdoor public works are animated by the wind.64 which His works for the Standard O il Company in Chicago (see figure 38) included several arrays of m etal rods situated in a shallow reflecting pool. The pieces were later removed and installed outside of what is now the Aon Center (also in Chicago).65 Like river reeds, the metal rods sway in the wind, making noise when they hit each other.
“About Bertoia Sonambient,” Harry Bertoia Foundation, accessed February 5, 2017, h ttp://harrybertoia.org/aboutbertoiasonambient/ . 65 “ Bertoia Public Works Timeline.” Harry Bertoia Foundation. accessed February 5, 2017. http://harrybertoia.org/harrybertoiapublicworks/publicworkstimeline/ .
Figure 38: Harry Bertoia, Standard Oil Plaza (1974), Chicago, IL. Image © Design Applause
Ned Kahn, while known f or his works involving water, is perhaps best known for his windbased works. His “wind veils” or “shimmer walls” consist of grids of m any small, hinged, freely moving metal
pieces, often incorporated i nto the facades of buildings.66 In one of his largest pieces, T urbulent Line , a collaboration with Urban Art Projects (UAP) for the Brisbane Airport, 117,000 aluminum panels are suspended from the side of a parking garage (see figure 39). Measuring eight stories and 500 square meters, each panel moves freely in the wind, illustrating the patterns of air movement, while reflecting the light of the sun.67 The dynamic facade behaves much the way water does, with waves and ripples extending across the surface. By engaging directly with wind and sun, referring to water through movement, and also existing on such a grand scale, Kahn’s work provides some of the most effective examples of interaction between the natural and built environment.
“ Wind,” N ed Kahn , accessed February 18, 2017, http://nedkahn.com/wind/ . 67 “ Ned Kahn, Turbulent Line,” U AP Studios , accessed February 18, 2017, http://www.uapcompany.com/studio/brisbaneairport/ .
Figure 39: Ned Kahn, T urbulent Line (2012), Brisbane, Australia. Image © Urban Art Projects
Like many of the waterbased projects, windbased works also often involve sound and movement. Additionally, the continuous movement of Anthony Howe’s sculptural work allows us to consider how windbased art features could be designed to harness the power of wind in order to generate energy. Comprehensive analysis After reviewing the selected projects involving sunlight, water, and wind, I found that they all display an interaction between the natural and built environment through employing a few common strategies. The most notable characteristic of these works is their
illustration of movement. Sunlightbased works, such as those of James Carpenter (see figures 17 and 18), demonstrate the movement of the earth around the sun (often perceived as the movement of the sun itself), through changes in shadow size and orientation. The movement in these works takes place v ery slowly, throughout the day or year. The element of movement in water and windbased works is often much more physically immediate. Ned Kahn’s T ipping Wall and Turbulent Line (see figures 31 and 39) are notable examples of kinetic elements within the built environment that respond to stimuli from the movement water and wind. In addition to the element of visible movement, of water and windbased works a lso respond to stimuli from the natural environment through the generation of sound. N ikola Bašić’s S ea Organ and Tonkin Liu’s S inging Ringing Tree (see figures 26 and 37) are both excellent examples of works that transform the movement of water and air into an audio experience. Sunlightbased works are distinct in their use of projection and reflexion, which is specifically impactful when color is introduced. The works by James Erskine a nd Olafur Eliasson (see figures 21 and 22) are examples of projects where colored glass and prisms are combined with sunlight to project color into interior spaces. While this design technique may not be suitable for all spaces, I see it as one that has not yet been fully exploited and could benefit from further exploration.
Water based works are u nique in their ability to illustrate the relationship between water and plant life, and also in the way they lend themselves to being integrated into waterrelated infrastructure, such as rainwater harvesting, stormwater management, water treatment, and irrigation. While the E coMachine and the design for Tanner Springs Park (see figures 32 and 30) demonstrate the relationship between water and plant life, I still see a design opportunity to more explicitly illustrate the act of harvesting, managing, and reusing water in the built environment. This could involve creative methods of collecting and routing water in ways that can be easily observed by occupants of these environments. In many cases these pieces would remain dormant most of the t ime, only becoming activated during rainfall. All types of projects, whether they involve sun, water, or wind, have the potential to generate energy. As previously discussed, the Supertrees (see figure 29) contain solar panels and waterpowered turbines, but these components are not apparent to the viewer. Anthony Howe’s rotating windbased sculptures (see figure 36) do not generate energy, but they definitely appear as if they could. Going forward, there is certainly room for further development in exploring the role that art features can play i n contributing to renewable energy systems within buildings, in a way t hat can be easily observed. In developing future projects, it is also worth noting that certain types of works are better suited for certain climates. A
sunlightbased work would be more appropriate in a desert town than it would be in the cloudy Pacific Northwest, while waterbased works would function more effectively in tropical climates where there is heavy rainfall. It’s no coincidence that Harry Bertoia’s wind sculptures (see figure 38) are located in the city” of Chicago. “windy When choosing sites to locate these projects, it is also important to consider where the need is greatest. While a great deal of ecological art is situated in the natural environment, I believe that these works are most effective in urban spaces. Through integrating art features involving sunlight, water, and wind, we can not only enhance the built environment with points of aesthetic interest, but also create a strong ecological presence in a space that might otherwise be lacking. Design proposals As an artist and designer, it would be difficult for me to research ecological art features without feeling the need to design a few myself. Also, being that art which interacts with sunlight, water, and wind is something of a budding genre, it is useful for me to continue this narrative and elaborate upon some of the design strategies that I’ve identified. My proposals are early conceptual which can be further developed at a later date if and when the designs designs are submitted and accepted as projects.
City Lights My first sunlightbased project is intended to illustrate the act of collecting and utilizing solar energy in an urban setting. The work consists of a series of 4footwide square and trianglebased metalframed towers between 12 and 26 feet tall. The top surface of each tower is slanted at a 4 5degree angle and oriented to be facing south, consisting of a photovoltaic panel facing skyward, a high capacity battery within, and a panel of LED lights on the underside. During the day, the solar panels collect energy to be stored in the batteries, which is then released as light in the evening (see figures 40 and 41). The towers would ultimately be located in a park within a larger city, in which comparison could be drawn between the silhouettes of the towers and the city skyline. The towers are essentially symbols of buildings, existing on a slightly more human scale, in which people can walk in among them. The collection, storage, and use of solar and energy within the sculptures is intended to make people consider how solar energy can be utilized within the built environment. The vertical orientation of the towers will also result in elongated shadows which move across the ground during the day the angle of as the sun changes. The geometric nature of this work would allow for it to be designed with custom heights and configurations depending upon where it is located.
Figure 40: Clark Rendall, C ity Lights (2017), Daytime view
Figure 41: Clark Rendall, C ity Lights (2017), Evening view
Spectrum Shelter My second sunlightbased project, like the work of Olafur Eliasson (see figure 22), combines the movement of the sun with colored panes of glass, to c reate a patterned color projection which changes throughout the day and year. The tilted, tentshaped metal frame construction is approximately 8 feet wide by 8 feet tall at one end and 20 feet wide by 20 feet tall at the other end. The structure is oriented lengthwise to the north and south, with vertical supports spaced about 2 feet apart, e ach holding several panes of colored glass. The eastern facade contains cooler colors, while the western contains warmer colors (see figures 42 and 43). facade The colors on the eastern facade are intended to emphasize the cooler light temperature at sunrise, while those on the western facade enhance the warmer light temperature, or “golden hour” experienced before sunset. The metal frame structure casts shadows that move throughout the day, while the interior is illuminated with cooler colors earlier in the day, a nd warmer colors later in the day. The structure would be best suited for a wideopen space such as a public plaza, but could also be used as an entry lobby, or corridor space connecting two parts of a building.
Figure 42: Clark Rendall, S pectrum Shelter (2017), Morning view, East facade
Figure 43: Clark Rendall, S pectrum Shelter (2017), Afternoon view, West facade
Water Garden I (Motion / Energy / Light) For both waterbased works, I felt it would be most effective to design indoor works which illustrate the way rainwater can be harvested and reused within buildings. Both projects involve harvesting systems on the roof which bring water down into an interior courtyard with a pool containing aquatic plant life, and possibly fish and other marine life as well. The first project utilizes moving water to generate energy. A chute directs harvested rainwater into a series of wheels, which rotate, releasing water into the pool below (see figure 44). While the wheels are designed to be aesthetically elegant visual components, they also power generators which serve as a source of electricity within the building. The wheels remain still during most times, and are only put in motion during rainfall. The act of generating electricity is illustrated t hrough a series of underwater lights which illuminated when the wheels are activated. become
Figure 44: Clark Rendall, W ater Garden I (2017)
Water Garden II (Sound) The second waterbased project consists of a similar environment, but in place of of components which rotate, instead involves components which vibrate and resonate with sound when exposed to moving water. Building upon the work of Jaume Plensa (see figure 28) water is directed through a series of chains suspended from the ceiling, causing the chains to rattle, while some of the chains are placed above bells located n ear the surface of the pool. Water from the chains falls onto the bells creating a soft ringing sound as well (see figure 45).
Both versions of the W ater Garden portray water as an activating element, which brings the works to life. The idea of water as a lifegiving element is also emphasized by the presence of aquatic plant life. The pools remain full at all times, circulating the existing water, and being replenished with new water during rainfall, allowing excess water to then be routed to additional irrigation systems on the grounds, or t o be reutilized in toilets or as process water within the building.
Figure 45: Clark Rendall, W ater Garden II (2017)
Pendant Bridge Building upon the work of Ned Kahn, my first windbased project is integrated into the support structure of a pedestrian bridge, and 70
intended to demonstrate the movement of the wind in a slightly more threedimensional setting. I n this work, two columns support larger diagonal cables connected to the base of the bridge, while additional vertical cables extend between the diagonal cables and the base. The vertical cables hold varying numbers triangular, pendantshaped of aluminum panels which rotate freely in the wind (see figures 46 and 47). Much like a contemporary version of a weathervane, the pendants indicate the direction of the wind. Viewers can walk across the bridge, among the pendants, experiencing the changing direction of the wind through cues within an immersive space. visual
Figure 46: Clark Rendall, P endant Bridge (2017)
Figure 47: Clark Rendall, P endant Bridge (2017), Firstperson view
Sail My second windbased project is intended to demonstrate the act of harnessing the power of wind to generate energy in an urban setting. This work is designed to crown the top of a fairly tall building, and can be viewed from the roof or the street below. Extending upward from the parapet walls of the roof, two diagonal metal rods on opposite corners meet in one corner to create a triangular sail shape on two sides of the building. Within the structure is a grid containing many circular microturbines, which rotate in the wind, generating electricity which can be utilized within the building (see figure 48). The turbines consist of blades of contrasting colors, making their movement more apparent during the daytime. Each turbine also contains an LED light in the center which will brighten and dim
depending upon the speed at which it is rotated (see figure 49). The design would be best suited for taller buildings in coastal areas or other locations where there is continuous breeze from a consistent direction.
Figure 48: Clark Rendall, S ail (2017), Daytime view from above
Figure 49: Clark Rendall, S ail (2017), Nighttime view from below
Areas for further research In reviewing the existing projects involving sunlight, water, and wind, which then led to my own designs, I only covered the most relevant projects I was able to find. In addition to the less exemplary works that I found but did not include in my research, there are certainly many other projects out there that have not been sufficiently documented. I a lso chose to limit my research to contemporary projects, while there are plenty of examples of building features that interact with sunlight, water, and wind within ancient and architecture, as well as vernacular architecture. For a more art
thorough account of works interacting with these natural forces, a more rigorous cataloging of all projects and periods would be needed. My proposal that we enhance the built environment with ecological art features relies upon the belief that such features will demonstrate the interaction between the natural and environment, built and raise awareness of our r elationship with other living things. While there is a fair amount of literature related to the social and economic benefits of biophilic design, my research could certainly benefit from a more empirical study of how such art features impact the built environment, and if they do indeed have an effect on people’s perception of our r elationship with the natural world. Conclusion As green building technology advances, we will continue to design buildings that utilize energy and natural resources more efficiently, and have a reduced negative impact, or possibly a restorative effect on the natural environments in which they exist. At the same time however, we must also design spaces that demonstrate this positive relationship between the built and natural environments to the people who occupy these spaces. This can be done through thoughtfully integrating art features within the built environment that interact with natural elements, such as sunlight, water, and wind. Through active collaboration between artists, architects, and designers, buildings of the future will not only function sustainably, but will
also communicate messages of environmental awareness, challenging people to live with a greater sense of appreciation for the natural world and a meaningful understanding of our connection with all other living things. All design proposal concepts and imagery property of the artist, © Clark Rendall 2017.
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Graduate thesis on the intersection of art, ecology, and the built environment