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Wave Garden by Yusuke Obuchi

Back in November, Meg and I went to the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum to check out the Design Triennial. Of course, I meant to write more about what I saw, but never got around it. Yusuke Obuchi’s project popped into my head this morning, probably my favorite piece from the show. Obuchi’s Wave Garden is a prototype for an ocean-powered power plant. The motion of the ocean causes flexible tiles to bend, the mechanical stress of the bending generates electricity (via the piezoelectric effect), and the electricity is collected to run blenders for making Californians’ beloved smoothies.

And that would be fantastic by itself, but if Californians wisely use energy during the week, the power plant becomes a floating public park on the weekends:

Demand for the energy the Wave Garden produces on weekdays determines its function on the weekend, when energy consumption declines. If Californians have consumed little energy, they are rewarded: the tiles rise to the surface to form recreational platforms and swimming ponds. But if weekday demand is too high, the garden remains strictly a power plant. Acting as a barometer of energy use, the Wave Garden makes invisible power visible.

New York Times architectural critic Herbert Muschamp called it Best in Show:

No contest, really. This is the kind of work critics dream of finding. Even as pure sculpture, the project is stunning. But it is also a fine example of green design. Conceived as a power plant to replace a nuclear reactor in Southern California, this floating marine installation would harvest energy from Pacific waves. On weekends, it would surface above the waves to create a public beach and park roughly half the size of Central Park.

Yusuke and his work were also mentioned in a review of the Triennial for Metropolis. Here are some photos of the Wave Garden (another photo from the Metropolis piece).