Solar panels are no longer just shiny boxes on roofs. With a new generation of solar cells capable of harnessing the energy from the sun through flexible, colored surfaces, there are now endless possibilities for solar innovation at the crossroads of design, engineering, and architecture. This innovation is on display in the exhibit, Sunny Memories, supported by EPFL+ECAL Lab and swissnex San Francisco and showing at the California College of the Arts’ Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts from April 16 to 24, 2010.
Sunny Memories presented students at four leading design schools with the opportunity to explore the broad new realm of technology, energy, and design made possible by new solar dye cells. Called Graetzel cells for the professor who invented them, Michael Graetzel of the Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), in Switzerland, the cells are inspired by photosynthesis in nature and use dyes to help transform the sun’s light into electricity.
Initiated and led by the EPFL+ECAL Lab, Sunny Memories workshops took place at the University of Art and Design Lausanne (ECAL), California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco, the Royal College of Art in London (RCA), and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle in Paris (ENSCI). Under the tutelage of design leaders such as Yves Béhar from San Francisco’s fuseproject, Jean-François Dingjian of Paris’ Normal Studio, Sam Hecht from London’s Industrial Facility, and Swiss designer Jörg Boner, the students were given the task of dreaming up solar goods that could be made using the flexible, colorful cells. The 29 products they created included an energy-producing portable speaker, public park bench that glows at night, sensor-based mailbox that sends SMS when full, and a refrigerator that keeps cool off the grid.
“Sunny Memories signals a new relationship between technology and design: designers have the freedom to explore the multiple meanings that a new technology can bring about, and transform it into real user-centered experiences,” comments Nicolas Henchoz, Director of EPFL+ECAL Lab.
Public Events, Dates, Hours
April 16 – 24, 2010 – The Way Beyond Art: Sunny Memories
Kent and Vicky Logan Galleries (2nd floor) at CCA’s Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts*
Tues. and Thurs., 11 am – 7 pm;
Wed., Fri., Sat., 11 am – 6 pm
April 22, 2010 – Sunny Memories Presentation and Public Reception
6:00 pm – 7:00 pm Sunny Memories Presentation with olin Owen, Interim Chair of Industrial Design (CCA) (EPFL+ECAL Lab) and Yves Béhar (CCA, fuseproject) in the Timken Lecture Hall
6:00 pm – 9:00 pm Public Reception in front of the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts*
Yves Béhar is founder of the San Francisco-based design studio, fuseproject. He is focused on humanistic design and the “giving” element of his profession. He aims to create projects that are deeply in-tune with the needs of a sustainable future, are connected with human emotions, and that enable self-expression. fuseproject designed the first $100 “XO” laptop for Nicholas Negroponteʼs One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), aimed at bringing education and technology to the world’s poorest children.
Béharʼs commercial projects set out to be equally impactful, as exemplified by the Herman Miller LEAF Lamp, the Aliph Jawbone and, most recently, Y Water. His work has been the subject of two solo exhibitions and resides in the permanent collections of international museums worldwide, including MoMA and the Musee d’Art Moderne/Pompidou Center.
A material science engineer from EPFL, Henchoz has worked as a professional journalist, news anchor, producer, and short film director since 2000. He also founded and directed ICAT, a branding, communication, and identity management company.
He currently shares his time between two positions: advisor and head of communications for the president of EPFL, and director of EPFL+ECAL Lab, which he founded in 2007. He also sits on multiple boards, teaches at EPFL, IDHEAP (Institut de hautes études en administration publique), and at the Journalism School of Lausanne. His book, Art of the Void, was published in 2004.
More on Sunny Memories
The Sunny Memories world tour began in 2009 with stops in Lausanne, Paris, London, and now San Francisco. It travels to New York and Boston next. The San Francisco stop also represents the first installment in a new series of exhibitions at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts called The Way Beyond Art.
Industrial production of the dye solar cells that inspired Sunny Memories is now up and running, and the three companies mass-producing the cells—Solaronix (Switzerland), G24Innovations (UK), and Dyesol (Australia)—provided direct support to the exhibit.
In addition to the guidance of the EPFL+ECAL Lab, a research center established in 2007 by EPFL
in collaboration with ECAL, the young designers received direct support of the laboratory from professor Michael Graetzel, who earned a World Technology Award for the discovery. The project also received support from Geneva-based private bankers Lombard Odier, pioneers in responsible investment.
Photo: Myleen Hollero