As Milan Design Week kicks off, Panasonic is preparing to unveil its “Energetic Energies” exhibition designed by Japanese architect Akihisa Hirata. Installed beneath the Largo Richini Portico at the University of Milano, the 30-meter-long structure features hundreds of solar panels scattered over representations of city rooftops. Instead of laying the panels in a conventional pane, Hirata designed small solar units that grow out of the cityscape in an organic, tree-like way, mimicking the versatile adaptation of plants to the position of the sun.
The “Energetic Energies” installation continues to reexamine the way solar panels are deployed, drawing from last year’s “Photosynthesis” exhibit, also designed in collaboration between Panasonic and Hirata. Instead of positioning the panels to face the same way, Hirata proposes a three-dimensional structure reminiscent of flora-covered hills. The cityscape, made out of randomly arranged cubes, looks like a solar-powered garden that fuses technology with nature.
“Conventional wisdom has it that bigger is better when it comes to solar panels, and that they must always face one direction. I don’t buy into that,” says Akihisa Hirata. “The sun moves from east to west, with its angle relative to earth constantly changing. That’s why plants grow their branches and leaves in so many different directions; they want to catch as much sunlight as possible. So if we really want to efficiently provide energy for a city, I think we should rethink how we deploy solar panels, “he added.