Unfolding Shadow

Weißensee Academy of Arts and Design – BERLIN

A photovoltaic structure combining efficient energy generation with smart shading in order to open up the urban space for solar energy harvesting and create adaptive, energy-independent ecosystems.


General Description

Unfolding Shadow is a surface structure of organic photovoltaic foils, that autonomously respond to changes in the lighting conditions. Inspired by photonastia – the solar animated movement patterns of plants – a thermal sensitive metal animates sun exposed modules to straighten up, in order to harvest the incoming solar energy and provide shade for the covered area: In direct sunlight, a wire made of smart memory alloy will reach its activating temperature of 35 °C and contract into its pre-programmed shape of a tensioned spring, pulling the module in its upright position. Below this temperature, the counter tension of a spring steel strip is forcing it back into a resting function, that allows the view and the light to pass through. The SMA is performing the functions of a sensor, a processor and an actuator all in one, merging the simplicity of a static panel installation with the energy efficiency of solar tracking in an error-resistant, low-tech and responsive shading system.

Sustainability Impact

The largest energy consumers on earth are buildings, using up to 40% of the global energy. In cities, most of the energy generation functions covering that demand are outsourced from the living to the surrounding environment, applying enormous stress to the latter one while requiring extensive transmission infrastructures. The solar solution Unfolding Shadow aims to transform cities from consumers into providers, and solar energy harvesting into a life-enhancing, cultural matter. The synergizing combination of two technologies not only enables plenty of urban environments to become energetically active and independent. The semipermeable second skin also enriches the covered area with a balanced microclimate, reducing the energy required for its temperature regulation. This way the solar dynamic structure opens up the urban space for sun energy harvesting, while encouraging the transformation of cities sterile, anonymous landscapes into sensitive, energetically independent urban ecosystems.

Head of Project

Vivian Tamm