Architect Riccardo Mariano, based in Berlin, has created a solar-powered arch called the Arco del Tiempo (Arch of Time) in Houston, Texas. The arch is part of the city’s efforts to expand its Bayou Greenways trail system. 

The Arch of Time acts as both a solar energy power plant and a piece of public artwork. It incorporates photovoltaic modules on its surface, generating approximately 400,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually while providing shade for the local community.

The Arch of Time is referred to as “the world’s largest sundial” by the Land Art Generator Initiative, which commissioned the project. The arch directs sunlight through tinted glass openings on its ceiling, projecting the sun’s rays onto the ground below. Metal fins beneath the arch, known as “gills,” concentrate the light into an elliptical shape on the ground, aligning with the sun’s position every solar hour.

Riccardo Mariano carefully considered the structure’s position and form based on the site’s interaction with the sun. Ultimately, Mariano chose to orient the arch southward to maximize sunlight absorption on its photovoltaic exterior. 

The arch features trichord truss arches, rub trusses, and purlins that support its tilted steel structure. Galvanized metal decking and custom-fabricated photovoltaic modules cover the arch’s surface.

The electricity generated by the arch has the capacity to power approximately 40 average US homes. However, the project will contribute the energy produced to the nearby Talento Bilingue de Houston cultural facility.

The Arch of Time, according to the Land Art Generator, serves as a public artwork that aligns with the cultural and infrastructural needs of the 21st century. The team believes that art, design, sculpture, and infrastructure can be creatively merged in response to the public’s demand for interdisciplinary solutions to the climate crisis.

This arch will function as a “gateway” to Houston’s Second Ward neighborhood, connecting Guadalupe Plaza Park to Buffalo Bayou Park. It’s part of the city’s ongoing initiative to enhance access to green spaces and mitigate flooding through the design of urban parks.

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

Image source: GCR, Image cropped.