Sun Towers

Sun Towers
Submission to the 2016 Land Art Generator Initiative design competition for Santa Monica

Artist Team: BLDA Architects (John Perry, Matteo Melioli, Ramone Dixon, Terie Harrison, Kristina Butkute), XCO2 Consultants (Tom Kordel, Sherleen Pang, Kostas Mastronikolaou), Steven Scott Studio (Steven Scott)
Artist Location: London, UK
Energy Technologies: Photovoltaic Panels, Point Absorber Buoy Wave Energy Converter, Tidal Turbine
Water Harvesting Technologies: Solar Distillation, Reverse Osmosis Desalination
Annual Capacity: 4,000 MWh and 110 million liters of drinking water

The year 2016 marks a special occasion for Santa Monica. It is the 100-year birthday of the Looff Hippodrome, the gloriously eclectic carousel building that is one of the few features of Charles Looff’s Pleasure Pier that remains to delight visitors today. It seems appropriate to propose a new landmark to celebrate this centennial interval in Santa Monica’s history.

Towers of Sun is a new type of desalination plant where low-tech solar distillation is prioritized and supplemented by renewably driven reverse osmosis. Power plant and people assimilate in an uplifting visual experience, where vertical, active, and intelligent systems constantly assess and recalibrate the local dynamic environment.

The design responds directly to the eccentricity of the site and the city. By day, opaque, elegant solar antennae float on a current of energy, strategically positioned to directly respond to the local micro-climatic conditions. By night a tantalizing glimpse of striking form and color is revealed!

An extension of the promenade optimizes views to an extended sea space facing southwest, then navigates the visitor back along the loop to exciting views of the mountains and City of Santa Monica. The panoramic terrace, located at the heart of the plant, will support a dynamic public learning center, inspired by the interpretive elements at the Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility (SMURRF). Visitors can stroll along a unique panorama, up close to the elegant sun towers, where the drama, suspense, and beauty of solar desalination are performed.



Each solar tower is a steel and glass structure that contains a vertical stack of water vessels. Solar energy heats and evaporates the seawater from the vessels, which then condensates and falls to the base of the tower.

Photovoltaic cells are grouped upon vertical masts as a screen, which rotates to follow the sun path. Energy surplus generated by the photovoltaic panels is used to power a micro desalination plant, situated at the bottom of the tower.

At the base of each tower is a buoy on the water’s surface that rises and falls with the waves. The action drives a pump system that compresses the seawater until it reaches the solar water vessels. Tidal turbines are invisible below the water’s surface to provide supplemental electricity.

This multi-dimensional installation celebrates the power of light and the energy of the ocean in all their myriad variations.

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