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sustainable cities: where clean energy meets design

in sustainable cities

Energy is one of the main topics in sustainable development.
Walking away from fossil fuels and relying more on renewable sources is absolutely crucial. Yet in practice, the transition is slower than it could. Complexity, cost, and time are all factors that are building friction and not making things easier.

How can design help?

democratizing solar power

Solar power has become more popular in the latest years. But it still is a considerable investment that requires some space and – someone would also add – doesn’t look particularly appealing.

There’s a new field of research though – named Solar Design – that builds on the idea that every surface is an opportunity to harvest the energy of the sun. This ambitious claim is being proved with a number of innovative, inspiring, and beautiful solar harvesting applications that go from urban design to interiors.

Ecacia is a pergola for urban use that takes its shape and name from acacia trees. Like the wide canopy of acacia trees, Ecacia creates shade while at the same time harvesting solar energy through the panels mounted on the top. The tree-like shape (that fits into the biophilic concept of natural analogues) and the wood cladding on the “ceiling” make the structure more pleasant and better connected to nature. A great example of the power of design in making functional elements enjoyable!

In architecture, solar design options go from roof shingles to window blinds and completely transparent solar panels that are turning the common conception of solar panel upside down. Moving to interiors, Sunne is a revolutionary light fixture that’s powered by sunlight only!

read more about Sunne on riivin, the sustainable interior design platform I curate →

People walking under tree-shaped pergolas.
Credit: Ecacia by Samuel Wilkinson Studio
View of the tree-shaped pergolas from the front.
Credit: Ecacia by Samuel Wilkinson Studio
View of the tree-shaped pergolas from the top.
Credit: Ecacia by Samuel Wilkinson Studio
View of the tree-shaped pergolas at night.
Credit: Ecacia by Samuel Wilkinson Studio
Sun powered light fixture.
Credit: Sunne
Sun powered light fixture.
Credit: Sunne

end-of-life creativity

Like any other form of energy, clean energy too requires infrastructure. Rising attention toward end-of-life considerations is sometimes causing doubts about the complexity (and not-so-clear strategy) for disposing of used-up infrastructure.

One solution is for sure to embrace the principles of circular design, incorporating a strategy for disposal right from upfront design.
Another option is repurposing, looking at things differently and creatively. An inspiring example comes from wind turbine blades that – instead of being thrown away after use – are being reinvented as urban furniture becoming shelters, benches and even whole playgrounds!

Playground made with wind turbine blades.
Credit: Re-Use – Ph: Denis Guzzo
Kids playing in a playground made with wind turbine blades.
Credit: Re-Use – Ph: Denis Guzzo
Kids playing in a playground made with wind turbine blades.
Credit: Re-Use – Ph: Denis Guzzo
Urban shelter made with wind turbine blades.
Credit: Re-Use – Ph: Denis Guzzo
Urban seating area made with wind turbine blades.
Credit: Re-Use – Ph: Denis Guzzo

Once more, these inspiring projects highlight the crucial role of design in sustainable development. Design shapes our world and we choose how we want to shape it!

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