A retail lot in Austin, Texas recently sprouted a stunning field of solar sunflowers that soak up the sun’s rays to provide shade while generating a steady stream of renewable energy. Designed by public art team Harries/Heder, the installation consists of 15 flower-like solar photovoltaic panels located on a pedestrian and bike path between the village of Mueller and Austin’s highway I-35. According to Harries/Heder, the flowers are “an icon for the sustainable, LEED certified Mueller Development and a highly visible metaphor for the energy conscious City of Austin.”

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When construction on Mueller, a mixed-use urban village in Austin, Texas first began nearly a decade ago, developers set up a number of environmental and aesthetic rules to safeguard the green spaces and keep the town from taking on an industrial feel. So when a massive retail lot was proposed, Mueller agreed to let it be built on one condition: loading docks behind the stores had to be covered up. Enter Sunflowers, An Electric Garden — Austin’s largest public art installation.

In addition to providing shade for walkers and bikers, the solar flowers collect energy during the day to power the installation’s blue LED lights at night. Leftover power is sent to the grid to offset the cost of maintaining the installation. If only every city required industrial sites to be covered up with similar art projects!

+ Harries/Heder


Photos by David Newsom