Sunny Memories

Future Flair

New York City, April 1, 2010 – Solar panels are no longer just silver boxes on roofs. A new generation of solar cells harnesses solar energy through flexible, colored or even transparent surfaces, creating endless possibilities for innovation at the crossroads of design, engineering and architecture. An energy-producing portable speaker, public park furniture that glows at night, a sensor-based mailbox that sends SMS when full and a refrigerator that can keep itself cool off the grid: these are amongst the 28 exciting projects that will be on view at the Center for Architecture May 13 to June 5, to coincide with the 22nd International Contemporary Furniture Fair.

In Sunny Memories, four leading design schools explored the broad new realm of technology, energy, and design that solar dye cells have heralded. Led by the EPFL+ECAL Lab, in Lausanne, Switzerland, the “Sunny Memories” workshops took place in collaboration with the University of Art and Design Lausanne (ECAL), the California College of the Arts (CCA), the Royal College of Art in London (RCA) and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle in Paris (ENSCI). Under the tutelage of design leaders like Yves Béhar from San Francisco’s fuseproject, Jean-François Dingjian of Paris’ Normal Studio, Sam Hecht from London’s Industrial Facility, and Swiss designer Jörg Boner, students began their projects with the following challenge: how do we use energy to record our memory, heritage and knowledge? How can we employ solar energy to preserve history, while increasing autonomy, mobility, and sustainability?

The source of this solar innovation is EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne), the “MIT of Switzerland.” There, professor Michael Graëtzel began to use molecules from colorants to transform the sun’s light into electricity. Inspired by photosynthesis, he developed an award-winning technology that allowed solar dye cells to take all sorts of shapes, colors and forms. As industrial production of these solar cells has begun, it is now up to the design community to create products that meld this new technology with great design. “Sunny Memories signals a new relationship between technology and design: designers have the freedom to explore the multiple meanings that a new technology can bring about, and transform it into real user-centered experiences,” comments Nicolas Henchoz, Director of the EPFL+ECAL Lab.

In addition to the guidance of the EPFL+ECAL Lab, a research center established in 2007 by EPFL in collaboration with ECAL to boost innovation at the crossroads of design, engineering and architecture, the young designers had the support of the laboratory of Prof. Michaël Grätzel (EPFL), who earned a World Technology Award for this technology, and three companies, which have started mass production of these dye solar cells: Solaronix (Switzerland), G24i (UK) and Dyesol (Australia). The workshop was given concrete form thanks to the commitment of Geneva-based private bankers Lombard Odier, pioneers in responsible investment.

Since 2009, the Sunny Memories exhibition has been on world tour; it has stopped in Lausanne, Paris, London, and San Francisco and will arrive in New York in time for ICFF. “The American Institute of Architects is committed to a sustainable future,” says Anthony P. Schirripa, FAIA, IIDA, President of AIANY. “We’re also dedicated to helping the next generation of designers grow, and exhibiting Sunny Memories at the Center for Architecture is a great opportunity to show New Yorkers a new mode of environmentally responsible design.” The North American tour of Sunny Memories will end in Boston’s Harvard Laboratory at in the fall 2010.

Related programming in New York is organized by futureflair and the Center for Architecture. Exhibition design in New York by Pure+Applied. The exhibition was produced by EPFL+ECAL Lab, and received support from swissnex San Francisco, the Swiss Arts Council, Pro Helvetia, and the Consulate General of Switzerland in New York.

Opening Party and Panel: Sunday, May 16, 2010, 5-7pm
Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place, New York City

Speakers include Nicolas Henchoz of EPFL+ECAL Lab in conversation with Paul Thompson, rector of the Royal Collage of Art, Rick Lewis of seven02 design and professor at CCA, and Anna Dyson director of the MATERIALAB at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, moderated by Laetitia Wolff of futureflair.

Sunny Memories is on view May 13-June 5, 2010, at the Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place, between Bleecker and West 3rd Street in Greenwich Village, NYC. The Center is open M-F 9am-8pm, Saturday 11am-5pm, and select Sundays. Press are invited to view the exhibition on Sunday May 16 at 4 PM.