LICA Piezo Reed Bed
In 2011 the Lancaster Institute of the Contemporary Arts issued an open competition call for a new sculpture that would sit outside of a new BREEAM excellent rated building on the Lancaster campus and that would be it's new home for students. The competition received dozens of entries and finalised into a Kinetic sculpture by an Architecture Student with an interest in sustainable technologies who would use the work to explore piezo electric energy generating components and the use of art installations in creating and adapting micro-climates.
The proposal submitted to the open competition was to install a reed-bed around the entrance bridge, forming a link connecting the entrance of the LICA building to the woodland opposite and with the cycle storage building. Each reed will be formed from copper piping and have in-built elements that generate electricity as the reed moves in the wind, each reed will have a lighting element that will make use of this energy. The placement of the reeds will also work with the entrance bridge to form a visual cue to the entrance of the building and act as a windbreak. In creating sustainable buildings and working towards energy efficiency we are looking at ways in which the building itself can generate micro amounts of energy for instant use. This artwork will form a discussion piece for the use of Piezo Electricity generation, (energy created when quartz and other materials come under pressure). The individual reeds will produce tiny amounts of energy as they move in the breeze. This energy can be used by lighting and heating elements within the reed itself, changing the reed-bed’s micro climate in fractional ways. In addition, the formation of the reeds will interrupt the wind around the buildings entrance bridge, changing the micro climate in another way. LICA have commissioned a prototype reed, to help understand how the components can work with the mechanical energy created by the reeds movement. The artwork will create an opportunity to assess new components and describe the way they can be used in other installations and in the fabric of new buildings. Our gardeners have long been aware of specific micro-climates, using the well lit areas of the garden for particular plants, and shaded areas for others. Growing plants specifically for the benefits they give to others and forcing some to grow taller seeking the light. The development of Victorian walled gardens play with these temperature changes and manipulate the wind to blow over the garden instead of damaging the planting. Architects use similar principles in many of the same ways, orienting a building to collect more of the sun, or shading devices to prevent overheating. Our gardens and our houses are the most defined micro-climates we encounter on a daily basis, the most easily controlled. When we scale this up to larger buildings or even skyscrapers it becomes more and more difficult to work with the same small scale controls, opening and closing windows become a hindrance, opening windows on the 20th floor of an office block and opening the front door of the foyer can cause a chimney effect blowing the contents of your desk out of the window. A more exaggerated effect of opening your front door and your back door at the same time. In producing this artwork we can look at the way devices can interact with the environment, changing it, and forming similar micro-climates to those we use successfully at home. In scaling up the buildings we can also work with scaling up the installations. This installation will add to the strong visual link established by the entrance bridge, the cycle store and the forest studio pods. The act of building creates disruption to the landscape, this temporary turmoil will slowly re-establish itself. With the planting around the edge of the pond growing, bringing the green and browns of the woodland closer to the building, it will soften the overall colour palette. This colour change will be reflected by the copper of the reed bed installation, it will darken and patinate over the years. The light generated by the installation will form a second visual cue to the entrance, and will directly respond to the weather and the seasons.
Piezoelectric materials create micro-voltages when placed under mechanical strain, the material is bound in a thin film and is used as a sensor in a host of industries, as microphones and strain gauges. In security systems as trip switches and as wireless switches transmitting tiny radio bursts when pressed. Tiny amounts of energy can be gathered together in energy harvesting circuits, they link with capacitors to store the energy and discharge it all at once. In this installation the energy is being used to light small LED’s. In 2000 Trevor Bayliss used energy from footsteps to charge a mobile phone, and that technology has been integrated into sports shoes that light up when you walk. Wearable technology that charges itself through a persons movement are now moving from the theoretical to the practical, with more and more practical uses for the concept more products and components are becoming available. Leading to built devices that work from decades old theoretical constructs. In 2007 Rick Dickinson applied for a patent for an energy generating tree, linking small piezo generators to a ‘sail’ of material that formed a leaf. Many leaves making a branch with many branches making a tree. This elaboration of the idea of piezoelectrics is a natural development, that wasn’t practical until very recently and was developed by Professor Francis Moon and a number of students at Cornell University on two projects that created working models of the wind tree principals. The reed bed hopes to contribute to this research and produce a much more art-led project.
After the first reed was made it was decided that the copper lamp arrangement at the head of the reed was less than appealing. So Caine went to learn how to blow glass to produce a more robust and attractive iteration of the Reeds.