Kara Bartelt

Occidental College and Lettuce Office Create an Electrifying Urban Hillside Solar Array in Los Angeles

by , 04/23/13

Occidental College recently powered up an urban hillside solar array that combines science, engineering, urban design and art.

Occidental College recently powered up an urban hillside solar array that combines science, engineering, urban design and art. Occidental faculty collaborated with the environment design and research firm, Lettuce Office, to create a subtle shifting, rotating design that challenges the design of normal, utilitarian solar arrays. Two-thirds of the array’s 4,886 panels are installed on a southwest-facing campus hillside. With panels mounted just 2-3 feet above the ground, the low-profile array hugs the topography of the slope in a fluid form based on a mathematical expression known as a hysteresis loop. “[This] project represents a new paradigm for arrays as architectural objects that, like buildings, are expected to contribute aesthetically to their environment,” says Occidental President Jonathan Veitch.


Occidental College recently powered up an urban hillside solar array that combines science, engineering, urban design and art.

Lettuce Office principal, Kara Bartelt, worked with the engineers at Martifer Solar to devise this unique solution that complements the urban landscape of Los Angeles. Surrounded by neighborhood hiking paths and above the college’s soccer fields, the array can be seen from nearby hills, from the campus below or glimpsed through the adjacent neighborhoods. Normally a purely functional device, this array has been applauded by urbanists, the solar industry and its Angeleno neighbors as an improvement to the city’s landscape and a new paradigm for urban solar solutions. The 1.2-megawatt ground-mounted solar array is one of the largest of its kind in Los Angeles and will generate approximately 11% of the college’s annual electrical usage, saving them an estimated $250,000 a year.

+ Lettuce Office

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