SOL Grotto is a spartan retreat—a space of solitude and close to nature where one is presented with a mediated experience of water, coolness and light . The SOL Grotto also explores Solyndra’s role as a company Sh*t Out of Luck. 1,368 of the 24 million high tech glass tubes destined to be destroyed as a casualty of their bankruptcy, are used in the installation.
The project is located in the Berkeley Botanical Garden alongside Strawberry Creek in the California Native section as part of the exhibit Natural Discourse, which is a collaborative project between The University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley and a multi-disciplinary group of artists, writers, architects and researchers who have been invited to spend time in the Garden’s extraordinary collection of plants, engage with the horticulturists and develop new site specific work.
The tube’s original role as a light concentrating element is extended to transmit cool air into the space via the Venturi effect, to amplify sounds from the adjacent waterfall via the vibrations of the tubes cantilevering over the creek, and to create distorted views of the garden.
The glass tubes are illuminated electric-blue naturally from the direct and ambient light that is conducted through the glass causing each tube to change in intensity throughout the day. Collectively, the tubes take on the form of a cave wall or a waterfall, evoking Plato’s Allegory of the Cave where shadows, light and sounds call reality into question. The view through the rods is simultaneously kaleidoscopic and mesmeric and has become home to several insects found in the garden. The sound of a waterfall is present inside The SOL Grotto and the combination of sound, light, views and coolness filtering through the cracks in the flooring creates a highly sensorial space.
Project Date: 2012
Project Team: Rael San Fratello Architects: Ronald Rael, Virginia San Fratello, Kent Wilson, Bryan Allen, Chase Lunt, Dustin Moon, Bridget Basham
Media: 1,368 glass tubes, wood, paint
Fabrication: Matarozzi Pelsinger, Rael San Fratello Architects
Funding: Project made possible by a generous donation from Matarozzi Pelisinger Builders. Glass provided by Gene Ashley of JIT Transportation.
Acknowledgments: Special thanks to Dan Matarozzi, Dan Pelsinger, Kirk Allen and the staff at Matarozzi Pelsinger; Paul Licht, Anthony Garza, Chris Carmichael and the entire staff of the Berkeley Botanical Garden; Natural Discourse Curators Shirley Watts and Mary Anne Friel, Gene Ashley of JIT Transportation, Mark Ganter, Randy Ruiz, Anthony Giannini, Walaa Al Khulaitit, and Matthew Millman.
Additional Project Information: The project has been politicized by the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Fred Upton (R – MI) and conservative political commentator Michelle Malkin, as the most expensive artwork ever created, citing the $535 million loan guarantee to now-bankrupt Solyndra who produced the rods. Sadly, Greg Gutfeld, host of the Fox News program “The Five”, promotes “taking a sledge hammer” to The Sol Grotto. The politicization of the work and the origins of the glass are discussed further in the San Jose Mercury News. More information about Natural Discourse at the San Francisco Gate. Read more… [ Wall Street Journal | NBC | Treehugger.com | Getty Images | CBS | Bay Citizen | Huffington Post | Los Angeles Times ]