by Michael Cockram
In harnessing solar energy, the usual approach is to bolt an array of panels onto the roof of a building and plug it in. But recent advances such as building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) allow designers to incorporate solar cells seamlessly into a building's exterior.
Canadian glass artist Sarah Hall is taking this idea in a novel direction by using solar technology to create a striking contemporary version of stained glass that illuminates the aesthetic potential of PV.
Hall's Lux Nova installation (2007) at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, was the first permanent installation in North America to integrate stained glass and solar cells, according to the artist.
Two Vancouver firms, Clive Grout Architects and Walter Francl Architecture, were working to create a new library building that accommodated the school's desire to preserve a park on the site. Their design places the library facility underground, with an iconic "wind tower" above that acts as a stack ventilation shaft.
The tower is 40 feet (12 meters) tall and triangular in plan. For the south face, Hall was commissioned to create a six-by-24-foot (1.8-by-7.3-meter) vertical collage befitting this graduate school of theology.
Within each of the 12 constituent panels she designed, solar cells are arranged on an open grid, defining a series of stained-glass cross shapes.
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