SOL Grotto, an installation completed in the Berkeley Botanical Garden by Rael San Frattello Architects, is a sensory oriented space using the discards of the infamous collapse of solar energy company Solyndra. The specialized glass tubes originally created for housing solar cells is repurposed to great spatial and tonal effect by placing them through a wall and connecting the outside within.

The installation is placed next to a small creek allowing the interior to be acoustically awash with the water tumbling down a rock face. Sunlight setting the 1,368 tubes glowing creates a blue hued vertical topography as each tube is placed in a slightly different depth to adjacent ones. A mesmerizing effect occurs when daylight changes in intensity, amplifying or relaxing the interior’s luminosity. Visitors can also peek through the tubes to gain a micro view of the garden beyond. The glass has become habitat for insects, integrating the installation further into the natural space.

The aesthetic and contemplative installation is undercut by the sardonic title referring to S*it Out of Luck for the innovative solar technology’s demise. Developed to house 360 degree solar cells 24 million of the tubes were destroyed as storage and possible reuse proved too expensive.

Lead photo Matthew Millman
Photos Craig Michler for eVolo

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