One of the six final spots at the Lexus Design Award was given to Ben Berwick for his newly developed product called Solgami. A system for domestic energy generation, the innovation was born from Berwick’s background as an architectural graduate from the University of Sydney, after which he went on to specialise in advanced design, receiving a Master’s degree in engineering whilst a Fellow at the University of Tokyo. He is now back in Sydney, where he teaches at his alma mater and runs an architectural start-up called Prevalent, which focuses on social spaces and spatial technology
Berwick’s Solgami blends the concept of origami and architecture to improve energy efficiency in apartments while adding an element of design as well. It utilises the geometry to create a screen that gives residents a closer connection to their external environment and yet permits privacy through its structure as a window blind. This geometry provides privacy, and puts the user in charge of deciding between greater internal illumination or electricity generation.
Solgami manifests as a geometric lattice that folds and unfolds onto itself. Fitted with reflective surfaces, the screen bounces light off its panels and into the space within, thus, increasing internal illumination. On the other hand, it harvests the energy from the light and transfers it back to the locally connected grid. The fully controllable system allows for the inhabitant to select the most appropriate position depending on the need to bring in more daylight or capture its energy. “The design of the lattice presents itself in multiple configurations for different appearances and effects while continuing to channel changing light throughout the day, thus makes Solgami a unique renewable energy-lighting solution,” says Berwick.
“The current prototype is a 50mm thick screen lattice that can be hung just like a window blind. The blind is flexible enough to take on various honeycomb shapes as the user folds and unfolds it. The material contains dio sensitized solar cells (DSSCs), and it folds accordion-like in one direction while rotating elbow-like in another, which allows it to reflect light captured at varying times of the day. The light that enters the window reflects off the lattice surfaces with more bounces, thus yielding more energy.”
While currently, Solgami is available for more residential application, Berwick is confident that it can be used on larger building facades such as glass skyscrapers. The Solgami system in that case could potentially allow the building to become electrically self-sustaining, while enhanced natural light inside would further reduce the use of lighting fixtures.
“The design focuses on providing a modular construction for an already existing establishment. Solgami is an option to replace window blinds, and give the user a choice from open, closed, or in-between. For the first time, we are equating increased internal illumination with solar energy generation, and putting the inhabitant in control of that balance,” says Berwick. “The next step in the process is to test the efficiency of the project and increase the range of the product from apartment buildings to multi-national companies, hospitals and other life-size establishments,” he adds.
Read more about the Lexus Design Award 2019 at the Milan Design Week and its other finalists: