Dezeen Magazine

Arco del Tiempo in Houston by Riccardo Mariano

"World's largest sundial" set to be created in Houston

Berlin-based architect Riccardo Mariano has designed an arch topped in photovoltaics, which will act as a sundial for Houston, Texas, as a part of the city's ongoing expansion of the Bayou Greenways.

Named the Arco del Tiempo (Arch of Time), the public artwork in the city's Second Ward will be covered in photovoltaic modules to generate nearly 400,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually and provide shade for locals.

Arco del Tiempo in Houston by Riccardo Mariano
Riccardo Mariano has designed the "world's largest sundial" for Houston

Described by Land Art Generator Initiative, which commissioned the project, as "the world's largest sundial", the structure will project the sun's rays onto the ground below through tinted glass apertures spanning the length of its ceiling.

A series of metal fins, or "gills", underneath the arch will focus the light into an elliptical shape on the ground that will appear every solar hour in correspondence to the sun's position above.

"Arco del Tiempo will tell the solar time each day and delight visitors with a slowly evolving spectacle that bridges the terrestrial and the celestial," said Land Art Generator.

Pianist playing in arch in Houston
It is in the shape of a giant arch

Mariano designed the structure as a sweeping pavilion facing south to capture sunlight on its photovoltaic skin, positioning it according to how the sun interacts with the site.

A combination of trichord truss arches, rub trusses, and purlins will support the tilted steel structure, which will be clad in a layer of galvanized metal decking and covered with custom-fabricated photovoltaic modules.

The electricity generated by the structure is capable of powering "40 average US homes", although the project will gift the energy to the nearby Talento Bilingue de Houston cultural facility.

According to Land Art Generator, the Arch of Time will be a "work of public art that meets the cultural needs of 21st century infrastructure".

"We think that the siloes of art, design, sculpture, and infrastructure are being creatively dismantled in response to the public desire for interdisciplinary solutions to the climate crisis," said the team.

"In the context of the worsening climate crisis we have made through the burning of fossil fuels, we believe strongly that public art should aspire to achieve regenerative status whenever it is possible."

The Arch of Time will serve as a "gateway" to Houston's Second Ward neighbourhood and will connect Guadalupe Plaza Park to Buffalo Bayou Park as a part of the city's ongoing initiative to provide greater access to greenspace and mitigate flooding through the design of urban parks.

Other projects that combine photovoltaic arrays with shade structures this university building in Georgia by Miller Hull Partnership and Lord Aeck Sargent.

The imagery is courtesy of Land Art Generator Initiative.