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Creating Space with Solar

On the eve of Melbourne Design Week 2021, Partner Mathew van Kooy talks about The Solar Pavilion, a collaboration between Wardle and Ash Keating Studio. During MDW, it will host a series of talks to invite fearless thinking about Melbourne’s future - what it could be and what should it be, immersed in technology that will transform our lives.

In late 2019, Ross Harding visited our Collingwood studio to talk about A New Normal, his vision for Melbourne’s future as a self-sufficient city. We were inspired by the urgency and importance of his message. Two years later, we’re delighted to be part of The New Normal City Hub at MDW, which realises part of Finding Infinity’s much larger proposition.

The theme of MDW 2021 is Design the World You Want. In response, we created a pavilion that acts as a prototype – a finely crafted timber structure supporting 68 x 260W solar panels. Each day, the pavilion will generate 56Kw/h, which equates to 18,000Kw/h a year. Enough to power a New Normal Australian Home in 2030 for two years. If all the rooftops in Greater Melbourne had solar panels, they could power 76% of the city. The pavilion is both a prototype and pathway to a more sustainable future.

The Solar Pavilion is the centrepiece of A New Normal City Hub, a collective vision initiated by Finding Infinity in collaboration with 15 Australian architecture practices. Its ambition is to integrate the physical infrastructure that makes our city work with the cultural infrastructure that helps us thrive.

At its heart is a garden of 400 Australian native plants. The garden changes as the day passes, intermittently blanketed in a mist of recycled water. As the leaves dry in the sun, the air is filled with the scent of eucalyptus.

The Pavilion’s companion piece is an artwork by Ash Keating Studio titled A New Response. The vivid colours of the work reflect across the solar panels, visually mapping the collection of sunlight throughout the day.

The city block occupied by the Hub has a history of intervention and cultural initiatives. In 1999, the Russell Street Telecom Exchange Building was host to ‘Signs of Life, the inaugural Melbourne International Biennial curated by Juliana Engberg and supported by the City of Melbourne. An exhibition of works by 60 artists was held in the 8-storey building, themed around visions of the future.

Melbourne has changed considerably over the past 22 years. The Telecom Building is now the Hero Apartment Building. During lockdown, with the city empty of workers, Hero was an island of inhabitation in a desolate CBD.

Our hope is that visitors to A New Normal City Hub and Solar Pavilion are spirited supporters of a sustainable future. Also, bringing life back to the CBD post-Covid, that this is a moment where Melbourne’s rooftop culture is amplified, expanded, and electrified.

A New Normal has been supported by the NGV and City of Melbourne City Reactivation Event Grants. As Melbourne emerges from lock down, we are immensely proud that our initiative has provided opportunity for the arts and events community that has been economically devastated by the pandemic.

This project has been made possible by the generous contributions of many friends, suppliers, and supporters. We thank everyone that has contributed to the realisation of this extraordinary project in the most challenging of times.

The project will run March 26 to April 5 on the rooftop of 130 Little Collins Street. 

Melbourne Design Week Program

  • Public Art Ash Keating Studio
  • Built by B.F.C Built & Wilderness Building Co.
  • Timber Timberlink Australia / New Zealand
  • Paint Dulux
  • Fasteners AllFastners Australia
  • Power tools DeWalt
  • Lighting Light Project
  • Plants Plantmark
  • Furniture KFive + Kinnarps
  • Printing Classic Colour Copying
  • Solar Panels Finding Infinity
  • Building Owner Golden Age Group
  • Landscape Architecture Openwork
  • Structural Engineering Mott MacDonald
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