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BGPA/Rio Tinto Naturescape Illyarrie Shelter Artwork

Solar Powered & Solar Responsive Building Integrated Artwork in Kings Park

Clients: Botanic Gardens & Parks Authority
Architects: PlanE
Photographer: Robert Frith, Acorn Studios
Industry Partners: Cooling Bros., iGlass and Urbaneering
Location: Illyarrie Shelter, Rio Tinto Naturescape, Kings Park

The research component for this project commenced in July 2011 and the artwork was completed in March 2012.

Project Significance

1. The project is part of Solar Cities – an important national initiative. The artwork manifests as a solar powered ovoid skylight in the Illyarrie Shelter of the Naturescape that visually translates/responds to changes in solar radiation through changing patterns in glass.

2. The uniqueness/significance of the artwork is reflected in the way it intervenes in the electrochromic glass process in a new and innovative way. Whilst electrochromic glass has existed for approximately 10 years (although its application in Australia is nascent and has tended to be restricted to architecture) the artwork for the Rio Tinto Naturescape breaks new ground because it required collaborative industry research to develop.

I worked with the company iGlass in Ballarat, Victoria, and Cooling Bros. In Perth, to develop a new approach to the incorporation of patterned electrochromic sections in glass. These sections turn on when an electric current is passed through the glass. In normal electrochromic glass the whole panel will turn on/off. In this artwork, I have worked with these industry partners to create patterns that turn on/off according to how much solar radiation is available at any one particular time.

A solar powered ‘skylight’ that visually represents changes in solar radiation levels in the day through changing patterns in the glass.

Fundamentally, the work is a self-contained solar energy source that simultaneously visually measures the solar energy that powers it! The blue glass is made from electrochromic glass. It is divided into 12 patterned sections across two layers.

Under high radiation = all panels on = clear = orange glass becomes visible.
Under low radiation = most panels off = translucent or cloudy hiding sections of the orange and the blue root pattern.

The patterns refer to images of the banksia root system – but with a twist – instead of being in the ground the viewer observes the roots by looking up to the sky through this ovoid aperture in the Illyarrie shelter roof structure.


The work is comprised of the following:

  • X 3 solar panels
  • X 1 pyranometer - a small weather device
  • X 1 ovoid glass panel with orange pattern printed on the surface printed with the root system of the species Banksia Ionthocarpa.
  • X 1 ovoid glass panel with the same pattern printed in blue on the surface
  • Plus a deal of programming devices and other things.

I would also like to acknowledge the following people: Vince Bianchini and William Main, Cooling Brothers; Johnny Pak, iGlass; Michael Crowther, Urbaneering; Paul Bertolini; and Marcus Donato.

Download the proposal PDF

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