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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Event Guide: Cambridge Solar Collector Performance

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WHAT: Solar Collector — A solar powered, web-connected, interactive sculpture

WHERE: 100 Maple Grove Road, Cambridge, Ontario (Google map)

WHEN: Saturday, June 21, 8:30PM

If you are in the mood for a summer solstice party with a technological twist on Saturday night, head to the lawn of the Waterloo Regional Operations Centre in Cambridge and see the command performance launch of Solar Collector, a new public art sculpture that allows people to program light patterns through a web interface. The work is by Gorbet Design Inc., the folks behind P2P (or Power to the people), the interactive artwork installed on the front of the Drake Hotel back in 2004 (see Spacing‘s “History of our Future” issue in 2005, p. 41). It consisted of a large bank of light switches located on the south side of Queen Street that connected to lights fixed onto the Drake’s facade, allowing people to write, or draw, whatever they wanted. If you can’t make the performance on Saturday, you can experience Solar Collector on any other evening as well.

In a collaboration between the community and the sun, Solar Collector gathers human expression and solar energy during the day, then brings them together each night in a performance of flowing light.

We invite you to celebrate the summer solstice at the launch of Solar Collector on June 21st. Bring an evening picnic out to the grassy lawn under the apple trees, and enjoy live music to accompany the sculpture’s performance (More details here).

Twelve aluminum shafts rise from the grassy hill in front of the Waterloo Regional Operations Centre. Their graceful shape reflects the angles of the sun through the year. The tallest shaft is perpendicular to the sun at winter solstice, when the sun is low in the sky. The flattest shaft faces the high sun at summer solstice.

Each shaft has three sets of lights, along with three solar panels. During the day, the solar panels collect the sun’s energy in a battery within each shaft. At the same time, the Solar Collector website collects light compositions — patterns in light that are created by the community through a simple web interface.

Each night at dusk, a performance begins of all the compositions collected that day. The flowing waves of light are a visual reflection of the sine waves that describe the sun’s movement through the sky.

When the day’s patterns are through, the performance moves on to a series composed collaboratively from all the patterns ever created. The length of the performance is a reflection of the weather and the seasons, as the shafts use up their energy and fade out late in the evening, one by one.

Photo by Gorbet Design Inc.