Gallery: SOL Grotto is a Cool & Mesmerizing Space Made With Reclaimed S...


SOL Grotto is part of a larger project called Natural Discourse at UC Botanical Gardens at Berkeley, where artists, architects, scientists and poets have been invited to spend time in the gardens and engage with the space. The contemplative space was designed by Rael San Fratello Architects and built by Matarozzi/Pelsinger Builders. The simple wooden shed was built upon a pre-existing deck in the Californian Area adjacent to waterfall at Strawberry Creek.

The main feature of the grotto is the use of 1,368 glass rods in one of the walls. The rods were part of the stockpile of 24 million glass tubes left behind in San Jose, California after Solyndra filed for bankruptcy. The rods are destined to be destroyed unless artists and architects like Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello use them in new projects. The glass 39-inch rods are inserted into the wall and act as transmitters, pulling in light, the sound of the adjacent waterfall and even cool air via the Venturi effect. The result is an electric blue, cool interior that sounds like you’re inside the waterfall, which is created without the help of any power source. While there has been some controversy regarding the use of the rods from the failed company, the grotto is bringing visitors to the gardens and everyone seems to agree it is a beautiful space.

+ Rael San Fratello Architects

+ UC Botanical Gardens at Berkeley

Via Archinect and NPR

Images ©Matthew Millman, Kent Wilson, and Michael Friel


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1 Comment

  1. Jessica May 10, 2014 at 3:32 am

    The video is a fantastic addition to this blog, helping describe this grotto’s experience. Although a very small space, the way it manipulates light and sound, its contemplative function and close association with water really captures the essence of what a grotto is. The use of unconventional grotto materials to create such an environment is intriguing, and shows the direction grotto-like contemporary design can take. What I would love to see is these design techniques translated into buildings much larger than a pavilion, as I think they could really add some transitory qualities that are missing in commercial buildings, and might perhaps make them more enjoyable places to occupy.

    I am currently researching the grotto in contemporary design. To follow my research click on the link below, and please don’t hesitate to point my research in different directions, provide advice, etc.

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