International artists offer visions for solar installation on UB's North Campus

Exhibit of artists' concepts to be held at Albright-Knox April 23-25

Release Date: April 14, 2010

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Diana Balmori''s design distributes solar panels in drifts, such as those produced by wind on snow.

Walter Hood's design for the UB solar installation is modeled after DNA strands.

The design proposal of Vito Acconci models a terrain of clouds, mountains and ponds.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- What do a strand of DNA, snow drifts and a terrain of clouds, mountains and ponds have in common?

They all provided inspiration for designs submitted by three internationally renowned artists, finalists in a University at Buffalo-sponsored public art competition, for a solar installation to be constructed on UB's North Campus in partnership with the New York Power Authority (NYPA).

The project will be the largest solar array on a college or university campus in New York State and one of the largest on a college or university campus in the United States. Construction is expected to begin in August.

The university sees the project as more than an energy-producing facility -- it envisions it as a significant land art installation.

UB President John B. Simpson and NYPA will introduce the winning designer on April 22 -- Earth Day -- in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in conjunction with the opening of an exhibit featuring the designs submitted by Vito Acconci, Diana Balmori and Walter Hood.

The exhibit, "UB Solar: The Art of Power," will be open to the public from noon to 10 p.m. April 23 and noon to 5 p.m. April 24 and 25. It will held in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery's Clifton Hall.

The three designers were recommended by a selection panel that was co-chaired by Louis Grachos, director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and Ted Pietrzak, director of the Burchfield Penney Art Center. Other members of the panel were Robert Shibley, UB professor of architecture and planning, and senior adviser to the president for campus planning and design; Millie Chen, associate professor and chair in the UB Department of Visual Studies; Charles Hermann, research and technology development engineer with NYPA; and Robert Faber, director of special projects with DeCloet Greenhouse Manufacturing Ltd., the project engineer and construction contractor.

Funded with a grant from NYPA, the project will enable UB to generate 1.1 megawatts of clean energy onsite each year, providing power for 735 student apartments and reducing the University's carbon emissions by more than 500 metric tons per year.

The solar installation demonstrates UB's strong commitment to climate neutrality. An early signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, UB adopted a Climate Action Plan in 2009 which calls for significant increases in the university's on-site solar power generating capacity.

"The university also hopes that by providing a model for enhancing the aesthetics of the installations, the project will promote the acceptance and use of renewable energy sources well beyond the boundaries of the campus," says UB's Shibley.

The university conducted an invitational design competition to ensure that the solar installation, which will line UB's Flint Road entrance, will create a visually attractive gateway that integrates beauty with engineering innovation, and environmental sustainability. Three finalists were chosen from among the group of internationally renowned designers who entered the competition. The finalists participated in an on-campus interview/workshop, then were invited to submit conceptual designs that address all aspects of the solar installation, including its industrial design, its landscape, the accessibility and safety of the site to the public, and its future potential as an educational and research facility.

The internationally renowned artists whose conceptual designs for the solar array will be exhibited are:

Vito Acconci of New York City -- artist, installation artist, designer and founding principal of Acconci Studio. Acconci is a distinguished lecturer in the Art Department at Brooklyn College. His works have been exhibited throughout the world and are found in several major public collections, including those of the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Diana Balmori of New York City -- landscape and urban designer, and founding principal of Balmori Associates. Balmori teaches at the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She serves on the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts in Washington, D.C., and recently was appointed a senior fellow in garden and landscape studies at Dumbarton Oaks Research Library.

Walter Hood of Oakland, Calif. -- landscape architect, founding principal of Hood Design and professor and former chair of the Landscape Architecture Department at the University of California-Berkeley. Hood was the recipient of the prestigious Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Landscape Design in 2009.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

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