Lexus Design Award 2019, Finalist - 'Solgami' by Ben Berwick
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Lexus Design Award 2019, Finalist - 'Solgami' by Ben Berwick

Increasing energy efficiency in buildings, Australian architect Ben Berwick stands as one of the finalists at the Lexus Design Award 2019 during the Milan Design Week.

by Palak Maheshwari Jul 16, 2019

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.

  • Architect Ben Berwick | Prevalent | Solgami| Lexus design Award| STIR
    Architect Ben Berwick Image Credit: Courtesy of Lexus Design Award
  • : Solgami designs by the Australian architect | Ben Berwick |Prevalent | Solgami| Lexus design Award| STIR
    Solgami designs by the Australian architect Image Credit: Courtesy of Lexus Design Award

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.

A prototype of the window panel | Ben Berwick | Prevalent| Solgami| Lexus design Award| STIR
A prototype of the window panel Image Credit: Courtesy of Lexus Design Award

“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.

  • A prototype of the design| Lexus design Award| STIR
    A prototype of the design Image Credit: Courtesy of Lexus Design Awards
  • Ben Berwick explaining the concept of Solgami| Ben Berwick| Lexus Design Award| STIR
    Ben Berwick explaining the concept of SolgamiImage Credit: Courtesy of Lexus Design Award

Read more about the Lexus Design Award 2019 at the Milan Design Week and its other finalists:

  1. Algorithmic Lace by by Lisa Marks
  2. Green Blast Jet Energy by Dmitriy Balashov
  3. Baluto by Jeffrey E.Dela Cruz
  4. Hydrus by Shuzhan Yuan
  5. Arenophile by Rezzan Hasoglu

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About Author

Palak Maheshwari

Palak Maheshwari

As standing on the first step of structuring herself, Palak seeks avenues that can serve as an outlet for her creative energies. A commerce graduate and an avid reader, she has been working as an intern for STIR. Her ‘outside’ approach towards architecture and design reflects as a fresh perspective in her work.

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