Much praise has been heaped upon designer Ross Lovegrove since his solar trees first debuted in Vienna in October 2007. Essentially a solar-powered streetlamp — but also a work of art — the structure creates, as the designer puts it, “complex natural forms in a city that can benefit all of society.” They also save energy — and have managed to survive Vienna’s dark spells, with light still being generated even after four days without direct sun. From the article,
“When we were setting up the tree outside it was quite wonderful,” Lovegrove said. “Even when we had one stem, it was incredible, it seemed so insignificant but actually it really stood out and it proves this point that modern technology and design can really lift people’s spirits, it becomes an eye catcher because it’s sort of out of context. The Solar Tree is just a streetlamp but actually some of the small things which can have a big impact on our life are all open for reinterpretation.”
With the first-generation lamps firmly planted on some of Europe’s most famous streets, Lovegrove is now planning on the next-generation design. It will be called the “Adaptive Solar Tree” and, just like the real thing, will feature robotics that seek out sunlight or respond to changes in weather.
When the sun goes down the solar trees will return to their original position to give off a full spectrum of light to the street and pedestrians below.The new tree will also be able to respond to different weather, for example the branches will come together if the wind is too intense. Lovegrove also hopes to integrate an air purification bubble into the new trees, enabling them to clean the air around them, much like a real tree.
Smart streetlights that move to increase their efficiency or change with the weather? I for one welcome our new solar robotic overlords and hope the U.S. is next on the list to get some of these roadside.