BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo and the New York
Power Authority (NYPA) announced today that internationally
renowned artist and landscape architect Walter Hood of Oakland,
Calif., is the winner of a public art competition to design the 1.1
megawatt solar array that will be constructed by NYPA this year on
UB's North Campus.
Hood, founding principal of Hood Design and professor and former
chair of the Landscape Architecture Department at the University of
California-Berkeley, calls his concept "The Solar Strand," which
refers to a linear landscape formation and to the way pairs of
molecules entwine to form a DNA strand.
When complete, the UB solar installation's 5,000 photovoltaic
(PV) panels will generate solar energy for 735 student apartments
at UB, reducing the university's carbon emissions by more than 500
metric tons per year. The project will serve as a cornerstone of
NYPA's $21 million statewide renewable energy program.
Funded by an up to $7.5 million grant from NYPA, it will be the
largest solar installation on a college or university campus in New
York State and one of the largest on a college or university campus
in the United States. It also will advance a principal goal of the
UB 2020 strategic plan: to improve the environmental sustainability
of the university's three campuses.
UB conducted an invitational design competition to ensure that
the solar installation, which will line UB's Flint Road entrance,
will create a visually attractive gateway that integrates beauty
with engineering innovation and environmental sustainability.
"The university sees the project as more than an
energy-producing facility -- we envision this as a significant land
art installation that will complement the Buffalo Niagara region's
already significant reputation as a destination for world-class art
and architecture," said UB President John B. Simpson. The solar
installation will be integrated with UB's academic programming,
research initiatives and workforce training efforts focused on
sustainability and the green technologies, he added.
NYPA President Richard Kessel said the project will "demonstrate
the potential of solar technology and advance New York State's
efforts to be a leader in sustainable energy and the creation of
"The UB solar project will lead to development of other projects
throughout the state that will produce considerable cost savings
over time," he added.
Simpson and NYPA Trustee Patrick Curley introduced Hood at the
Albright-Knox Art Gallery in conjunction with the opening of an
exhibit featuring the designs submitted by Hood and the
competition's two other finalists, Vito Acconci and Diana
The exhibit, "UB Solar: The Art of Power" is open to the public
from noon to 10 p.m. April 23 and noon to 5 p.m. April 24 and 25.
It will be held in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery's Clifton
Hood's design was selected by a panel that was co-chaired by
Louis Grachos, director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and Ted
Pietrzak, director of the Burchfield Penney Art Center.
Other members of the panel were Robert Shibley, UB professor of
architecture and planning, and senior adviser to the president for
campus planning and design; Millie Chen, associate professor and
chair in the UB Department of Visual Studies; Charles Hermann,
research and technology development engineer with NYPA; and Robert
Faber, director of special projects with DeCloet Greenhouse
Manufacturing Ltd., the project engineer and construction
Hood's proposed design for the solar array physically resembles
the linear pattern of a DNA fingerprint. "And, like a DNA
fingerprint," Hood says, "solar panels would be codified and
arranged to show how much power is captured/generated and where it
is used." The panels are only part of the story, however.
Hood is above all an artist, as well as a landscape architect,
and says his proposal would also reinforce existing freeway/roadway
drainage patterns to create a new "patch ecology" that would merge
with existing creeks and campus woodlands.
Patch is a term fundamental to landscape ecology. It defines a
relatively homogeneous area that differs from its surroundings but
has a definite shape and spatial configuration, and can be
described compositionally by internal variables such as the number
of trees, number of tree species, height of trees or other similar
Plantings in and among the solar panels, Hood says, would
reinforce and merge with the existing creek and campus wood patch
ecology. Oaks, maples, redbuds and ground covers would be planted
along with ornamental species like linden and malus (small
deciduous trees or shrubs of the crabapple family) to provide
microclimate and display. Hood also would seed and plant low
maintenance grasses like bent grass and red fescue in strands or
striations to reinforce the array and recall the site's
"The landscape development reinforces the campus as a whole," he
says, "by connecting the tree canopy and the larger hydrological
Hood also envisions educational and social uses for the solar
panel system, primarily through the development of "social rooms"
that would break through the PV array at three locations. At each
site, retention/detention swales and ponds will create groundwork
adjacent to the towering panels, and seating, lighting and other
furnishings will facilitate outdoor use.
These recreational/educational spaces would be connected to
walks, trails and paths that connect to a visitor center, the
campus' mirrored Chilled Water Facility and parking.
A pioneering urbanist, Hood heads a firm committed to issues
that address the re-construction of urban landscapes within towns
and cities. His concept for this project demonstrates his
attraction to the exploration of ways that landscape typologies
reinforce and re-make landscapes specific to place and the people
who occupy them.
Hood has made important contributions to the cities of Oakland
and San Francisco by refurbishing 10 local parks and tailoring some
of them for reuse, and restoring several well-known memorials in
San Francisco, among them the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Monument on
the Embarcadero, and five acres of landscape surrounding the new De
Young museum in Golden Gate Park.
Hood was the 2009 recipient of the prestigious Cooper-Hewitt
National Design Award for Landscape Design and has exhibited and
lectured on his professional projects and theoretical works
nationally and abroad. His work was featured in the San Francisco
Museum of Modern Art's "Revelatory Landscapes" Exhibition 2000-01
and he is currently researching and writing a book entitled Urban
Landscapes: American Landscape Typologies.