Feeling the Energy by Carlo Ratti Associati X Italo Rota

WORDS Cheri Morris IMAGES Marco Beck Parcoz via archdaily.com

Feeling the Energy’ is a collaborative project by international design and innovation office Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) and architect Italo Rota that sees Milan’s Botanical Garden transformed into an energy park – a sensorial exploration of the link between energy and play.

Developed for Plenitude as part of Milan Design Week‘s INTERNI Re. Generation exhibition, the project features 500 meters of digitally bent copper pipe that meanders through Milan’s historical Botanical Garden in a sequence of six main stages – Energy Carousel, Garden Orchestra, The Leading Logo, Powering Vibrations, Blinds in the Sun and Solar Garden. Each stage invites visitors to discover different forms of sustainable energy production and consumption; making energy produced by the sun, wind, and people’s movements tangible and curious.

First, the Carousel gifts the experience of energy in motion. Next, wanderers walk beneath a series of portals that play sequences from the renowned Four Seasons symphony by Italian baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi, performed by the Ensemble Strumentale la Barocca of the Symphony Orchestra of Milan. And should they wish to add their own tune, a giant vibraphone beckons audience participation.

feeling the energy

Deeper still, an interactive tunnel of coloured diaphragms with organic photovoltaic panels afford curious hands the chance to open and close. Above, a canopy with sensors that detect passers’ presence activates a cool mist, simultaneously cooling pathways and sustaining vegetation. By day, the installation harvests and stores energy so that by nightfall it may illuminate the Garden.

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“The installation is inspired by the functioning of plant organisms,” says Carlo Ratti, founding partner at CRA and director of the MIT Senseable City Lab. “As trees in a forest draw energy from different sources and then use it locally where they need it – in a certain branch or the end of a leaf – the long copper tube of ‘Feeling the Energy’ absorbs energy in its entire length and then uses it in specific points of the installation path.”

“Playing is a fundamental activity for every human being. This installation suggests new links between play and the world of energy. It shows us that every time we consume energy – whether it’s on a carousel or a swing, or even while producing sound waves – we can recover some of that energy. In addition, the installation hints closely at the theme of efficiency. A simple gesture such as orienting the photovoltaic panels allows us to think practically about saving and optimising resources,” says Italo Rota.

‘Feeling the Energy’ will be open to the public until 13th June 2022. For more information on Milan Design Week, visit @milan.design.week.

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