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Solar Landscape: Unique installation shines light on Europe during Spanish presidency
The giant saucer-like shapes resemble a solar system, gravitating around the light filling the atrium of the Justus Lipsius building in Brussels’ EU quarter.
Each of the suspended coloured discs reflects this light and is further illuminated by floor lamps. Together, they reinforce the potent symbol of the sun and its role as the source of life.
It’s one of three installations forming the Solar Landscape (Paisaje Solar) project, which represent Spain’s vision for its current presidency of the Council of the European Union.
Injecting radiant colour to the otherwise sober architecture in the Schuman area, they are visible from the semi-public spaces of the council buildings or accessible via free tours organised by the council’s visitor centre.
Designed by Spanish artist Rocío Asensi and Spanish-Belgian architecture firm Re-Create Studio, Solar Landscape connects a green transition message with themes of diversity, inclusion and integration.
Noelia Pickard García (pictured) is a Spanish-British architect and co-founder of Re-Create Studio. She highlights the importance of public interaction with the installations. “They are not something you just observe, but something you can walk under and through.”
With the Justus Lipsus atrium also serving as a press space, the installations are designed to be easily dismantled and stored before being set up again in a new spatial configuration, including a different inclination for each disc.
This scope to further transform the area during the six-month presidency was an additional opportunity to spark interrogation. “What’s happening? What message are they trying to transmit? These are the questions that we are pushing for in our work,” points out Pickard García.
“Our desire was also to create a link between what happens here and what happens in Europe and the rest of the world; looking up and seeing the sun takes you out of your day to day environment,” she says.
A priority for the Spanish presidency and everyone involved in the project was responsible energy use. The installations were manufactured in Belgium by Delta production, largely using recycled materials and employing energy-efficient lighting.
“Although it’s a bespoke shape, basic elements already belonged to them and will also be used again,” explains Pickard García, whose architectural practice with Belgian partner Tristan Jadoul specialises in sustainable construction, including Passivhaus low energy projects, varying between new build homes to renovations of existing building.
With the installations on show until the end of December, diminishing daylight and Belgium’s notorious grey skies were factored into the designs.
“The colours are joyful, brightening up spaces and bringing a soft, warm touch even in colder extremes of light,” she explains. The addition of LED lights also illuminates the works during the darker months.
If the Justus Lipsius display is the project’s key installation, the two others reiterate its themes while also exploring the notion of Europe’s dreams. For the Europa building, which has less passing footfall, the installation had to be “symbolic of everything else we’ve presented here”, says the architect.
While it was an “absolute delight” to be selected for the project, on a personal note, Madrid-based Pickard García welcomed the opportunity to return to Brussels where she grew up and studied.
It also proved to be an enriching lesson in collaboration. The architecture duo and the multidisciplinary artist pooled their ideas and maintained a constant conversation to develop the installations.
“Opening up borders between professions is symbolic of Europe. Collaboration is such a positive thing and Europe is a unique project and we want to show its common vision,” she affirms.
What will she also take away from the project? “That there are no limits to what you can do with your profession. We have had the opportunity to talk to a wider audience about sustainability, which is important to us, as well as integration and what people desire for Europe in the future.”
Photos: ©re-create studio