Solar Shade by Buro North



Solar Shade by Australian designers Buro North educates primary school children about collecting energy from the sun while providing shade in playgrounds.


The canopies have solar cells on top and large handles on the base mean that the canopy can be rotated by pupils or teachers to get the most efficient orientation in relation to the sun throughout the day.


LED displays communicate how much energy is being generated and whether the device needs turning around.


For more from Buro North see our story from December about their Eco Christmas tree.

The following information is from Buro North:


Project Overview

In partnership with the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab we have developed a solar-collecting sun-shade for Australian primary school yards aptly titled the 'Solar Shade'.


Project Detail

As a government funded initiative, the VEIL solar-shade is a future possibility for the integration of solar-energy harvesting technologies into a form that is pragmatic (providing shade & energy), evocative and educational. Current Australian school curriculums utilize information around consumption and energy as an educational device, and we have designed this interactive concept to explore the visual connection between energy collection and consumption.


The goals of the government funded project include:

  • The creation of a solar shade that exposes and exhibits the technology of solar energy harvesting;
  • To engage students by developing an interactive concept that requires their input to function;
  • To shield students from the harsh Australian playground sun;
  • To inform students about the collection of electricity and how the quantity of energy harvested directly relates to the world around them;
  • To provide students with a direct benefit from the collection of solar energy.

About the VEIL Solar Shade design concept:
It features a broad, uni-directional solar panel surface as a visible face for the structure. Most solar collecting structures position the panels on an elevated surface not visible from the ground, removing visual recognition from the audience.


The structure is rotated throughout the school day to best suit the position of the sun. Markings around the circular base indicate best time-specific direction for shade in the morning and afternoon. The large handle on the shade allows for smooth rotation by children and adults.


The shade area of the structure is extended by the large sail-cloth awning that extends from the solar panel section. The Solar Shades can be arranged in clusters in appropriately sized spaces to create playground shade.


The underside of the shade features a dynamic visual feedback system to instantaneously indicate the quantity of energy currently being collected from the solar panels. Correct solar orientation will generate a positive visual message (LED's glow green), incorrect orientation will indicate the low amount of power collection (LED's glow red).

Posted on Friday May 9th 2008 at 1:22 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • chachito

    hmmm, solar harvesting, shade device, environmentally friendly… could they plant a tree?

  • Amer Hegazi

    it’s amazing and could not only be for the playground i thik it has more and more alternatives.

  • Bonzo

    I cannot get a handle on this at all – What does it offer more than a tree? What is it harvesting the electrify for and to what end exactly? To light the LED’s that tell you that it is working? It all looks very hi-tech and injection formed etc, (dare I say style over substance) but it would be interesting to do a comparison between the embodied physical energy that is required to produce one of these compared to its practical output. Aesthetically it is also quite fussy – how durable/cleanable is it for a playground environment? – I fear it would not last a minute in London schools. Also disappointing is its requirement to be moved by a “big handle” to follow the sun – I’m afraid this makes it non-passive and introduces a management issue. I will agree it is educational though – it informs and involves kids on the triumph of bureaucratic design babble over common sense.

  • sc…

    reminds me of the King Cobra before he strikes….. little unsettling for a playground.

  • Jelle


    for me it’s obvious that this is a good (better) alternative for a tree: you can move it around and it has a very small footprint in comparison with a tree.
    On an paved open space, a tree cannot be planted, this thing can.


  • fran

    Producto raro… De acuerdo con los demás… Un árbol? No parece lógico?….

  • no-comment

    This is great. The sun is Australia’s most wasted source of energy. Anything that helps educate children about ways they can utilise this power source in the future , whilst protecting them from the harmful rays is a step in the right direction for us Aussies. Not to mention the financial benefits to school and society by feeding power back into the grid. Bravo to the government (can only assume is the Vic’s) and Buro north!

  • Justin

    Interesting questions bozo. “What is it harvesting electicity for?”… I imagine they want to use the electricity to power things! “What does it offer more than a tree?”… I dont know of any trees that can directly and easily convert solar energy to the grid!

  • martin sisack

    Bonzo and Chachito: STRIKE! excelent comments on such a waste of energy project. Instead of teaching children about how tecnology will solve the problems of the luck of fuel in the future, we can start teaching them to seed trees and to reduce the consumption of energy, Stop lying that we can sostain our consuming habits for ever and ever.

  • Megascale

    Cobras Attack!!!!

  • FBot

    Everyone writes of designers for producing useless crap but then someone tries to make something that powers itself and teaches children about solar and they get shit for it too? I don’t get it.

    I agree that they could have produced in a more simple way and perhaps using more ecological materials but I think the aim is to teach Children.

    Children see trees everywhere but are they learning from them?

    I think its mostly valid. It would be good to see how much energy it can generate.

    But then again I am Australian.

    Overall Good work Buro North!!

  • no-comment

    There are government initiatives here in Australia to give rebates to those people feeding power back into the grid from their solar panels (they also get assistance from the government for installing them). What you don’t use yourself goes back into the grid and you get paid for the amount of electricity you generate. Long term it saves schools money and EVERY Australian house should be solar powered. Instilling this thinking in our children is the way forward.

    You can say what you like about aesthetics but it’s the context of this being produced in sun-drenched, design based initiative-lacking, skin cancer riddled Australia that is the amazing thing for more reasons than I could be bothered writing.

    Remember, we’ve got that big hole in the O-Zone ;)

  • Will

    Based on the amount of PV cells these things have, they would both pay for themselves, and earn the schools money whilst educating & shading the kids. Looks like a smart business proposition to me ;)

  • David

    If I were a kid I would learn alot about these things cause they seem pretty attractive at the base with the turning thing. (remember a kid can’t see what you see or vice versa)

  • Rock

    Harvesting solar energy in a primary school, informing children about the world we live in and its sexy – Well done!

  • Tao ZW

    i think is great to see such design being supported by the aussie government. i think the design is abit fussy, but it does look good and sexy (not sure whether this is the kinda thing kids are looking for).

    educating the children: seems to me that the solar shade is not interactive enough. could there be a chart/diagram/animation on structure to show the comparison between one of these to a tree?

    i guess people’s concern over the embodied energy versus the actual benefit (energy and economical) is missing the main point: educating the children and providing shade for flexible play space. note that this is not some design feature aim to power a building, and the fact that it is implemented in a children school, rather than some plaza of a corporate building illustrates that.

    maybe we don’t rely on 1 design like this to educate the children. a collaboration of design products and nature might be a better solution in teaching the children to be environmental minded: the value of tree planting and the value of environmental design. :)

  • Lee S

    Nice work buro north.

    I notice its described as a ‘future possibility’ and ‘concept’ and whilst the images look convincing, they are renderings, something I think some of the commentary above is missing the point on?

    If we dont conceptualize a better future, and put in place ideas such as this to harvest our most abundant resource, we are just going to be burnt by it!

    Solid concept and I think it looks super sweet. !!

  • Gabs

    They’re gorgeous!!!!

  • Jerry

    What a brilliant idea! I just love this genius design and I appreciate Buro North’s work. I am from Shenzhen China. I was wondering how much money should be invested to make this design come true so that we can use them in our university. I believe students of SZU would love those leave-shape public architectures. Shenzhen has a rather hot climate in summer.

  • lybao

    it like a shape of Snake Head !

  • Sally Allnutt

    Great idea for the school environment, as well as the education component, any outdoor activity like sports carnivals or open days, drama or music performances, could use such units to shade teachers and students while providing power for administrivia and communication needs without the spaghetti leads. There are often problems setting up marquees and tents for such occasions how portable is this unit? Maybe we could use them at bus stops or temporary shelters in the bush. In this country our need for the most environmentally friendly power collection and shelter are paramount.

  • Pedro Saturno Galdona

    Interesante diseño, pero aún estamos a tiempo de fomentar la siembra de árboles, que seguramente colaborará más con el entorno que este tipo de solución.

  • McGyver, MA.

    just like cobra figure..

  • Tushar H

    Yaa, work is good but it ‘ll affect environment. As the solar shade is made sufficient to replace a tree for shadow but it should not create oxygen which is basic need of our body. And i think a person ‘ll not think about that and he ‘ll replace it for electricity which is important in todays date also…

    So i wont think it is good for future gen….

  • Kyley

    I live in North Carolina and we are designing a playground at a school. We have very few trees in the area and cannot wait several years for them to grow enough to produce ample shade. Also we have an outdoor classroom on the playground as well (kind of like a gazebo). Can these solar shades be used to “power” the outdoor classroom?

  • matala

    I love it. Is it in the showroom for sale already?