Project: Tomas Saraceno, Solar Bell

What if a building was so light that on a windy day it could take off and elevate in the air? This is the question that Tomás Saraceno asked himself when developing Solar Bell, the final project in the series of artworks created to accompany the expansion of the port of Rotterdam with the construction of Maasvlakte 2. Since this extensive land reclamation project began in 2009, artists have been invited to observe, analyze and interpret the process. Their artistic visions and projects have functioned as beacons as the contours of the new land slowly took shape.

With Solar Bell the visionary artist Tomás Saraceno shared his dreams of a utopian new land, not reclaimed from the sea, but from gravity itself. Solar Bell is a flying sculpture, a vision of a flying plaza, a hovering observation tower. This sculpture in progress follows a series of work in which Saraceno explores wind and sound structures. Saraceno's ongoing project Cloud City, where cities float above the clouds, is powered entirely by renewable human, social and environmental ecologies. As R.B. Fuller said, there's no energy crisis; there's a crisis of ignorance. "Playing is one of the learning processes of life. It is the cultivation of what we do not think is possible," says Saraceno. "With the ability to float, the traditional boundaries will be crossed between earth and space, between art, architecture and science."

Solar Bell, fully lifted by the wind, is built using the latest technologies in the field of lightweight materials and sustainable energy technologies. To optimize the realization of his design, Saraceno and his team worked closely with the Aerospace Engineering Faculty at TU Delft, The Netherlands. The design uses light and extremely robust carbon fiber tubing and flexible solar panels to make it lighter than air. The sails are made of paper-thin solar panels. The design of Solar Bell is based on a model of a modular tetrahedron, or four-sided pyramid, invented by Alexander Graham Bell during his early investigations into manned flight. Bell made important discoveries in the field of aviation and frame construction, and happened upon the strongest geometrical structure in the known cosmos—the octet truss—the same space frame that Buckminster Fuller later followed in his Geodesic dome. Saraceno breathes new life into Bell's legacy by using the materials and knowledge of our time.

A five-meter-tall scale model of Solar Bell featuring mirror, solar and transparent panels were demonstrated to the public at Maasvlakte 2 on three weekends in August 2013.



Click here to download the leaflet on Solar Bell


Artist: Tomas Saraceno