Solar Cells

“Sonic Bloom” a new Interactive artwork showcases solar, sound and education at the foot of the Space Needle

In the playful context of Seattle Center’s festival groundsSonic Bloom is a new energy-neutral permanent interactive art installation at the foot of Seattle’s Space Needle and a defining entry sculpture to the Pacific Science Center. The signature sculpture is designed to demonstrate the science of solar energy in an accessible way as well as becoming a new icon for Seattle Center.

“Sonic Bloom” is a solar-powered work of art created by Dan Corson for the Pacific Science Center on behalf of Seattle City Light’s Green Up program, which supports the development of new renewable energy sources.

The project is composed of 5 super-sized flowers (up to 40’ tall and 20’ across) sporting frosted acrylic petals that glow like glass when backlit.  Mounted on the top of each painted flower head are 46 locally made photo voltaic cells. These solar cells collect the energy from the sun and are fed back into the electrical grid and completely offset the energy-efficient LED lighting and speaker electrical consumption for the project.

“There’s a myth that solar power won’t work in Seattle” said artist Dan Corson. “But even with our often cloudy weather, solar works well here”. The challenge was going beyond simple rooftop installations and engaging people with solar

After dark, the sculptures make a dramatic illuminated presence, revealing the domed undersides of the flowers as dynamic illuminated surfaces awash in moving color and concentric echo-inspired patterns. The backlit painted fiberglass diffuses the energy-efficient LED lights and creates an interesting patterned surface in the daytime.

The title Sonic Bloom refers not only to our defining location “on the Puget Sound” but also to the artwork itself that sings as the public approaches each flower.  Every flower has its own distinctive series of harmonic notes simulating a singing chorus. A hidden sensor located in each flower identifies movement and triggers the sound.  So if there are 5 people engaging the flowers together, it is possible to compose and conduct music together or by walking through, randomly set off a harmonic sequence.

The colorful striped stalks of the flowers not only accentuate the curved stems, but are also actual “barcodes” that can be deciphered by inquisitive sleuths motivated to decode the super-sized puzzle.

Seattle, with its mild maritime climate, hosts some of the most enthusiastic gardeners in the country. The artist is not only a self-described “plant geek” and has created an award-winning garden featured in a number of magazines, but has also created the garden concept for the planting beds below the sculptures as well.  The Sonic Bloom garden is designed for a year-round viewing highlighting certain flowers and color combinations that echo the sculptures every season.

Interpretive signage at the exhibition and inside Pacific Science Center explains how solar energy works and shows in real-time how it is powering the flowers.