nea studio developed Solar Lounger to fulfill both seating and lighting functions outdoors. A wooden slatted lounger, the work contains an integral mirrored photovoltaic panel situated in the adjustable backrest, which reflects the surroundings and collects power to illuminate lights inside its main body at dusk.
203cm x 63.5cm x 30.5cm
Solar Lounger can also register local climate conditions, including temperature, humidity, wind, or sunlight levels, through the use of embedded sensors, which feed information back into the system as data. In summer and winter, it lights up red or blue to signal hot and cold, these colours turning brightest when temperatures are at their most extreme. The photovoltaic panels belong to a breed of new materials, referred to by American architect Sheila Kennedy as “soft infrastructure”, which operate like an “instrument” by engaging dynamically with their environment: “Those materials are creating a different definition of infrastructure. We used to think of infrastructure as a technology, or a physical object, but now materials can actually produce infrastructural effects—creating energy, creating light and storing power.” Unlike ‘hard’, centralised power plants fueled by oil, gas, coal, or uranium, Solar Lounger therefore exemplifies a form of decentralised, renewable technology that conserves energy and follows ‘soft energy paths’, a term coined by American physicist and environmental scientist Armory Lovins in 1976.
Solar Loungers address the urgency of the climate crisis by using the sun’s power to provide the double functionality of both ambient lighting and seating by the pool. The warm striated glow of the seating encourages social interaction around the pool area for evening entertainment at home.
If environmental technologies and materials like photovoltaic panels can be incorporated into our everyday lives in a more pervasive manner, they become part of a ‘soft infrastructure’ (see attached text) as opposed to the traditional ‘hard infrastructure’ of oil and gas in the building facilities, installations and equipment required by energy companies to run their operations. These encompass a myriad of assets, including pipelines, drilling platforms, refineries, terminals, processing plants and storage facilities, most of which are massive and expensive industrial complexes found all over the planet.
Nina Edwards Anker