Inspired by Alexander Graham Bell’s lesser-known experiments with flight behavior of tetrahedrons, Berlin-based artist Tomas Saraceno developed Solar Bell – a lightweight, wind- and solar-powered, sculpture that plays with the concept of flying buildings. The artwork was designed and built to accompany the Maasvlakte 2 expansion of the port of Rotterdam on reclaimed land and poses an interesting question: what if a building was so light it could be lifted into the air by wind?
The Solar Bell sculpture follows a series of work through which Saraceno explored the concept of levitating buildings and the interplay between wind and sound. His Cloud City project – a network of balloons, suspended on spider webs that create an impression of walking on air, is powered entirely by human energy. The body is exposed to physical changes in the environment, directly caused by another human being. Similarly, in his newest project uses a renewable energy source-wind-in combination with latest technologies in the field of lightweight materials and sustainable energy technologies.
The team worked closely with the Aerospace Engineering Faculty at TU Delft, The Netherlands, to create extremely robust and light carbon fiber tubing and flexible solar panels to make the sculpture lighter than air. It is based on a model of a modular tetrahedron – four-sided pyramid experimented with by Alexander Graham Bell. Bell worked with the strongest geometrical structure known to man-the octet truss- which was later used by Buckminster Fuller in his Geodesic dome projects. Saraceno gave the idea a new makeover by introducing new technologies to already established geometric findings.
The five-meter-tall model of Solar Bell will be demonstrated to the public at Maasvlakte 2 in Rotterdam on three weekends throughout this month.