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The SOL Cave at Berkeley

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The SOL Cave in the Berkeley Botanical Garden, created by the architect Rael San FratelloOne of its sides is crossed by 1368 tubes of high quality glass, assembled and illuminated. Thanks to these tubes and the Venturi effect, the sounds of the waterfall and the garden are amplified, visually the result is an electric blue, the interior remains fresh and all this without the help of any energy source.

It is a Spartan place, a space of solitude and close to nature where a mediatized experience of water, freshness and light is presented. The project is located in the Berkeley Botanical Garden next to Strawberry Creek. It was conceived as part of the Natural Exhibition Discourse, which is a collaborative project between the University of California Botanical Garden and a multidisciplinary group of artists, writers, architects and researchers who have been invited to spend time in the Plant Garden's extraordinary collection, and who are engaged with horticulturists to develop the specific work of the new site.

The initial role of the tube is the element of light concentration, extended to transmit fresh air into the space by the Venturi effect, in order to amplify the sounds of the adjacent waterfall by the vibrations of the tubes in corbelled on the stream, and to create new perceptions of the garden.

caveol2The glass tubes are illuminated by a natural electric blue that comes from direct ambient light and is brought through the glass and each tube to change in intensity throughout the day. Collectively, the tubes take the shape of a cave wall or waterfall, evoking the Platonic allegory of the cave where shadows, light and sound call reality into question. The view through the stems is both kaleidoscopic and hypnotic and has become the focus of several insects found in the garden. The sound of a waterfall is present inside the SOL cave and the combination of sound, light, and coolness filtering through the cracks in the floor creates a highly sensory space.

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The project is a little controversial in California because the SOL cave hides in its name the imprint of another story a little less bucolic. 1368 of the 24 million high-tech glass tubes destined to be destroyed due to the bankruptcy of the company that built them are used in the facility. The original purpose of these glass tubes was to concentrate sunlight on a photovoltaic material deposited on their inner surface. The Solyndra company that produced them recently filed for bankruptcy and is left with more than two million tubes on its hands. Storage being more expensive than destruction, the photovoltaic company decided to make them available to architects and artists who want to use them...

Architects: Rael San Fratello, Ronald Rael, Virginia San Fratello, Kent Wilson, Bryan Allen, Chase Lunt, Dustin Moon, Bridget Basham.

Photo: © Matthew Millman

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