Carlo Ratti reveals digital shading canopy for climate control and beautiful shadowing

In developing Sun&Shade we were inspired by the Middle Eastern tradition of shadowing in architecture and public space
– Carlo Ratti

International design and innovation office Carlo Ratti Associati, in collaboration with Dubai’s Museum of the Future, have developed a digitally-operated reflecting canopy to provide shading, climate adaptation and green energy generation in cities.

The first working prototype, called ‘Sun&Shade,’ was unveiled this week in Dubai as part of the museum’s ‘Reimagining Climate Change’ exhibit.

The canopy is based on an array of mirrors that automatically track the sun. According to the designers, “much like a sunflower,” each mirror can move on a double axis and reflect the sun’s rays away from the ground – allowing the precise control of the desired level of shading and natural cooling underneath.

The reflected rays are then concentrated on a photovoltaic receiver, located a safe distance away, that generates electric power.

As the mirrors are able to tilt to different degrees, people can interact with sunlight in creative ways – from selecting the precise level of shading underneath, to composing dynamic drawings with light. Concentrated sun could also be used for more experiential and communal uses – such as roasting food on a sun-heated stone plate.

“In developing Sun&Shade we were inspired by the Middle Eastern tradition of shadowing in architecture and public space”, said Carlo Ratti, Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston and a founding partner of Carlo Ratti Associati. “Sun&Shade aims to bring this concept to the next level, allowing shadowing to be digitally controlled.”

Ratti explained that the technology could have “extraordinary” applications for increasing climate comfort, potentially allowing extremely warm cities such as Dubai to become inhabitable all year long, while significantly boosting clean energy production.

He added that his practice is dedicated to exploring how architecture can help prevent and adapt to climate change, at a time when the issue “is becoming increasingly pressing.”

A video showcasing how the canopy works can be viewed below:

“The canopy is half power infrastructure, half architecture for public space,” said project manager Antonio Atripaldi. “With its hybrid nature, it allows us more control over our surroundings.

“In the near future, we can imagine extending the canopy to cover streets or open squares in hot, arid climates. Conversely, in a cold place we could concentrate rays underneath the canopy to heat the environment.”

Carlo Ratti Associati have developed a number of innovative proposals in recent years, including a human-powered gym boat, an underwater plaza, a digital agriculture attraction for a food theme park, and a mile-high vertical park and observation deck.

Carlo Ratti  design  architecture  digital technology  Dubai  Museum of the Future 
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International design and innovation office Carlo Ratti Associati, in collaboration with Dubai’s Museum of the Future, have developed a digitally-operated reflecting canopy to provide shading, climate adaptation and green energy generation in cities. The first working prototype, called ‘Sun&Shade,’ was unveiled this week in Dubai as part of the museum’s ‘Reimagining Climate Change’ exhibit. The canopy is based on an array of mirrors that automatically track the sun. According to
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The canopy is based on an array of mirrors that automatically track the sun / Pietro Leoni
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