A giant gleaming arch clad in solar panels is set to transform the waterfront of downtown Willimantic. This spectacular energy-generating artwork, called Rio Iluminado, was revealed today as the winner of Land Art Generator Institute’s most recent design competition. Designed by Pirie Associates Architects in collaboration with architect Lindsay Suter and sculptor Gar Waterman, the public artwork is capable of generating 25.5 MWh of clean energy a year for a 3.4-acre remediated brownfield.

Close up rendering of the LAGI award-winning Rio iluminado design

Developed as part of an initiative to reclaim and beautify the Willimantic waterfront, Rio Iluminado aims to reconnect the community with the river and generate renewable energy in a beautiful way. Located on the riverbank, the site-specific Solar Arch will be covered in a 900-square-foot solar array while the underside is finished with polished stainless steel panels. The artwork’s curvature was designed to follow the path of the sun and to reflect its surroundings.

Rio Iluminado aerial view layout

In addition to the Solar Arch, the Rio Iluminado will include a River Well in the Tree Copse that demonstrates the daily sun cycle with a solar-powered pump that only draws underground water during the day; an interactive Spiral Channel that moves the water from the River Well to the River Platform; and the 3,400-square-foot River Platform, decorated with murals and other art, that gradually fills with water while overflow is channeled into a two-stage bio-swale system. In the winter months, the River Platform will be transformed into an ice-skating surface.

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Rio Iluminado was developed in close collaboration with the community, whose comments helped inform the final design. “Rio Iluminado cleverly addresses how to bring the river closer to the community—and vice-versa,” says WWP President James Turner. “We are thrilled to have a project design that will result in such an intricately conceived and strikingly executed work of art for the community to enjoy and be inspired by for years to come.” The project will now enter the next phase, where the winning team will focus on design development, cost estimates, and prototyping, followed by the final design fabrication and installation.

+ Land Art Generator Institute

Images via Land Art Generator Institute