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Solar Organ

Bread LTD
Sarat Babu, Andrew Brand, Gianpaolo Fusari, Matt Johnson, and Nick Reddall
Designed for Site #2 in Abu Dhabi, between Saadiyat Island and Yas Island.

Design Submission for the 2010 Land Art Generator Initiative Design Competition

Artist’s descriptive text:
A transition from a world powered by fossil fuels to a world powered by renewable resources is built on two pillars, technology and culture. The technology must exist to harness the energy that is present in our environment, and culture must support the changes that our planet requires. BREAD proposes that the next step in this dual transition is to reach back into our cultural legacy to find a forgotten figurehead for technological and cultural progress, the organ. Powered only by the sun, using a technology known as thermoacoustics, the Solar Organ will produce both sound and electricity. Viewers will have a chance to walk within the organ’s structure, absorbed by the soft ethereal tones of this musical instrument, knowing that as it produces sound it is also feeding energy back into the grid. The goal of the installation is to demonstrate the energy present in the environment around us through an instrument that produces both beautiful music and electrical energy.

From Ctesibius of Alexandrea’s first organ in B.C. 2000 to Giacomo Antegnati’s organ in Milan’s Duomo, for almost 4000 years this instrument played the role of the technical avant-garde, funneling the world’s famous composers through networks of pipes and valves. Before the industrial revolution, organs represented global technical achievement. Capable of producing sound in a broader range than any other single instrument, the great wind organs had up to 10,000 pipes, some of which were 19 meters in length. An organ was a demonstration of a society’s technical prowess and commitment to culture. Today though, the wind organ has been replaced by contemporary electronics and is no longer the technical or aspirational figurehead that it was. In comparison to contemporary technologies, the organ is often seen as an antiquated instrument. Unfortunately this view misses the organ’s true beauty, the way in which it transforms energy into sound, and wind into emotion. This transformation is governed by the most basic physical laws of our world, giving the organ a beautiful simplicity.

Recapturing this elegance is essential when we look forward to future of energy resources. We must learn to capture the energy that exists around us rather than reaching into the ground. Global culture needs to change to appreciate the intelligence of satisfying our energy needs through wind, water and the sun. BREAD proposes the Solar Organ to act as a way to both reveal the untapped renewable energy present in the environment, and to act as an international platform for musical expression. The Solar Organ will be an installation that will allow contemporary composers and musicians to manipulate its mechanics, allowing the very movement of the sun to play their melodies. The organ will produce beautiful, clear, purely analog sound and electrical energy through the most renewable of resources, the sun. Rather than being played by a musician, the solar organ will be played by the sun itself. As the sun rises high in the sky its energy will be focused into the internal structures of the organ producing tones as ethereal and magical as the desert. As the sun moves across the sky, shadows created by active optics within the structure will control which tones are being generated so the presence of the organ will evolve throughout the day.

The Solar Organ’s primarily role is to change solar energy into sound and electricity. Known as a thermoacoustic hot air engine, the solar organ will transform the heat from the sun into a high-amplitude standing sound wave by creating a temperature differential within the device. The thermoacousitc engine is one of a family of “Stirling” type engines that transform ambient energy sources into work. The magic of these devices is that they capture and focus energy sources that exist slightly below our conscious perception, transforming them into active work that we can understand. The solar organ will demonstrate to viewers both the incredible amount of ambient energy present in the desert environment, and the potential for that energy to take many forms.

The Solar Organ has 27 distinct notes, each consisting of seven major components. A Fresnel lens, a switchable smart glass plate, a solar collector, a ceramic regenerator matrix, a metallised ceramic heatsink, a glass resonator, and a vibrating membrane for electrical power generation (linear alternator). Each of these units is self-contained. The tubes vary in length from 2.6 m to .669 m, the respective frequencies would be 65.41 Hz and 261.63 Hz, giving a potential energy output of 27 Megawatt hours per annum. The Solar Organ functions by absorbing heat from the sun, which heats the air within the unit, generating a standing sound wave. This sound wave will both create tones to be heard by viewers as well as powering a linear alternator which will generate electricity. The frequency (and thus the note) of the sound is controlled through manipulation of the physical characteristics of the resonator. The linear alternator is most basically a loudspeaker run in reverse. Instead of using a current to move the speaker cone back and forth (creating sound), the cone of the speaker is moved by the sound wave, generating electrical power.

As the Solar Organ requires time to absorb heat from the sun to create its tones, it cannot be “played” like a conventional organ. Rather, the solar organ can be programmed through control of the switchable smart glass. The smart glass can quickly shift between being opaque or transparent allowing for precise control over the solar load received by each unit, thus controlling the timing of notes and the creation of polyphonic chords. The programming includes relational timing between notes, but also absolute timing relative to the time of day. For example, the programming could be designed in such a way that the organ will only play at dawn or at dusk. Its malleable nature means that the solar organ will offer an increasable range of expression, all the while generating electricity to be fed back into the grid.

The Solar Organ will offer viewers two important experiences. First, it will enthral them with the soft but powerful tones of this large musical instrument. As they walk within the structure of the organ they will be left to wonder how such a simple device can create such incredible melodies using nothing other than sunshine. The second experience will be the realisation that by embracing the energy present in the world around us we can meet our needs and work within and alongside our environment rather than compromising it. Those who have walked through the site will leave with a glimpse of an energy future that works together with a changing culture to create elegant and beautiful solutions to our most pressing problems.

low-res version PDF of submitted boards

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Sage and Coombe Architects
T. Kelly Wilson, Timothy Dunne, John Parker, Richard Kress, Peter Hansen, Christoph Timm, Peter Coombe, Allen Slamic, John Reed
Designed for Site #2 in Abu Dhabi, between Saadiyat Island and Yas Island.

land art generator
Design Submission for the 2010 Land Art Generator Initiative Design Competition

Artist’s descriptive text:
One edge of this site is the line between two extreme conditions: the Rub al Khali and the Arabian Gulf. Here the desert meets water. The forms of our proposal are drawn from the interaction of the environmental conditions and the unique land forms of the Arabian Desert’s Empty Quarter.

Solar Sound Field responds to the scale of the site and creates an alternate landscape of forms that will be seen from afar while providing an unexpected and sublime experience for an individual visitor. The composition of objects across the site is reminiscent of geological forms found in the desert, the Jebel Tuwaiq for example. We created these primal forms as a child may play on a beach: we dig to expose water; we smooth the sand to create a protected place; we mound the sand to make a landscape; and we dig by the sea and watch as it invades.

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To generate electricity we harvest the most prevalent source of energy on the site- solar radiation. It is well established that all the energy stored in Earth’s reserve of fossil fuels from petroleum to coal, is matched by the energy from just three weeks of sunshine. Each square meter collects the approximate energy equivalent of roughly a barrel of oil each year, or 6 kilowatt-hours of energy every day in the desert.

Solar chimneys will capture energy from the sun’s heat and photovoltaic cells create energy from the sun’s light. We want to transform the latent energy of the site into a medium that can be seen, felt and heard. We give voice to the desert: we propose five musical machines and five accompanying musical compositions.

Each machine is designed and placed to address a unique condition of the site and provide a different orientation to the ground plain. The generated sounds, ordered and organized into modern compositions, and are acoustically matched to the spatial idea and position of the viewer as he moves from one chamber to the next.

land art generator

The Machines
Each machine is a composition of three components: an acoustic chamber, a glass skirt and an array of chromium steel pipes- 60 meters tall. The elements of the site- water, sand and air are represented in glass, concrete and polished steel. The glass skirts will float above the sand like a mirage of water. The colour of water, sand and sky are reflected and distorted in the mirror finish of the pipes. The pipes will dissolve into the sky. The concrete is made from the surrounding sand and will be come a part of the ground.

land art generator

Air underneath the glass skirts at the base of the pipes will be heated by the sun and an upward directed airstream created by the hot and buoyant air wanting to rise. This airflow, similar to an organ, provides the means to sustain a musical note through the resonance chamber in each solar chimney. The pipes will channel the airflow that drives a simple turbine and generates electricity. Water storage underneath the glass skirt will be used to store heat so that the stack effect continues throughout the night. The harvesting energy will be felt and heard throughout the day.

In addition to the turbines, electricity is generated by of 24,000 square meters of photovoltaic cells placed below the glass skirts. The electricity created will provide power needed on site. Excess power will be fed to the grid.

land art generator

Parking Area
A continuous dune, made from the excavations or spoils from the sound chambers, lines the parking and provides an acoustical barrier to the road. Separate entrances punctuate the dune. A visitor, upon leaving the parking area, would pass through the dune and follow pathways that link each machine. Descending into the cool shade of each chamber the visitor will find a symphony of sound, space and light.

Machine 1 Amphitheatre remains an ‘instrument.’ The available sound is offered the visitor to manipulate, and to be used by visiting sound artists and musicians who come with the purpose to explore the form of generated sound.

Musical Composition 1:
Suspension Chamberland art generatorland art generatorland art generatorland art generatorland art generator
Here the unpredictability of the converging counterpoints – disparate and dynamic voices unpredictably bouncing off one another – form moments of intense epiphany and inner-directed rumination engendered by an encounter with the surrounding spaces and energy.

Machine 2 Water permits the confluence of tidal water within the sound chamber, low frequency notes at the limit of human hearing visually observable on the surface of the water, registering their notes with pressure.

Musical Composition 2:
Performance Chamber
Out of the stillness of the water grotto rises a sonic wave of resonating low frequencies. The cluster of tones first presents itself as an inaudible sound wave somewhere that sends ripples over the surface before modulating and becoming humanly audible. Our eyes are presented with one image of water and faint light and our ears remind us of their voluminous powers.

Machine 3 Sky slides land beneath an inverted dome that is pierced by an oculus, brings the visitor to direct their gaze toward the sky.

Musical Composition 3:
Water Chamber
With a blast of direct sunlight at the center of this massive disc the heavens cut through our senses like the bright, soaring major harmonies created by layers upon layers of melodic threads. The sun’s radiance appropriately trails-off into the sounds of creation – birds of the sky.

Machine 4 Wadi develops a long and gradual swale to pass gently under the land, slowly approaching the sound field beneath the pipes above where the slow gradient of descent compliments the gradient of sound.

Musical Composition 4:
Sky Chamber
Two wind instruments, like comforting messengers from the heavens directed columns and conversing a tonal language at home in the Arabic culture, beckon the visitor along a graded pathway leading further into a blissful unknown.land art generator

Machine 5 Canyon directs the visitor into a deep trench down a ramp, to cross a bridge poised exactly at the mid point between top and bottom of the trench. With equal measures of space above and below, the visitor is placed in a suspension from ground and sky.

Musical Composition 5:
The vast stretch of upwards and downwards space is not inert but charges with the sound of arching and jubilant brass. Suspended and locked into some kind of celestial dance above the insistent gravitas of the string bass pizzicatti the stifled awe of an encounter with the sublime is given over to joyously pulsating celebration.

Scientific Principles: Solar Updraft Function of LAGI
The basic function of LAGI is to use the heating of air as in a greenhouse to produce power from updraft to turn a turbine.

The project consists of five differently geometrically shaped machines which operate independently from one another. They are located at distances of 100 to 400 meters apart.

Functional Principles
The function of each of the five machines can be divided into three parts, each of which derives from traditional and conventional technology.

1. Greenhouse– heating of the air,
2. Chimney– upward motion of hot air through the towers, and
3. Turbines– generation of electricity by turning of a turbine.

The solar radiation penetrates the glass roof of a greenhouse a heats the air below. This is similar to what happens in a car parked in the sun, the air will heat up until there is an equilibrium of the energy irradiated into the box and the total of the energy radiated out of the box and the energy loss by heat conduction through floor, walls and roof.

The real model must include the loss of the hot air to the actually not enclosed “box”. A dynamic flow model includes inflow of cold air into the greenhouse, transport of that air through the greenhouse structure while the air is heated, and loss of hot air from the greenhouse to the chimney(s).

Hot air rises as it is less dense than cold air. The rising hot air from the greenhouse or glass skirt turns powers the turbines.

To calculate the potential for energy production from the turbines placed in the solar chimneys we have looked for existing installation that may serve as precedent.
Power Calculations and Precedent Projects

low-res version PDF of submitted boards

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