Wave Garden by Yusuke Obuchi has been making the rounds in the exhibition circuit since it was first presented as a Master's thesis project at Princeton University's School of Architecture in 2002. Currently, it is part of the 2nd International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (see The Flood Begins). Whether utopian or whimsical or both, it is grounded on a deep understanding of real materials and systems that it transcends its utopian trappings. One could be beguiled into thinking that it might just work.
Floating off the California coastline, the Wave Garden is a prototype for a dual-function power plant and public park, oscillating with the ocean waves and cycles of energy demand. It is designed to succeed the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant after its 40-year license expires in the year 2026.
As an alternative to nuclear and other conventional energy sources, the Wave Garden is an electric power plant that derives energy from the movement of ocean waves. Its piezo-electro membrane is a flexible electric generator, where bending the material or applying stress creates an electric charge. Conversely, applying electric current to the membranes causes it to deform.
Monday through Friday, it generates energy, but at the weekends, the Wave Garden changes into a public garden - thus changing from a space of production to one of recreation and consumption. On weekends, selected areas lift above the surface of the ocean, acting as a ceiling under which boats approach the entrances.
The area dedicated to recreation during the weekends is inversely proportional to the energy consumed during the week. In this way, the public park acts as a visual indicator of energy consumption - the less energy used, the more area allocated to recreation.
Visitors gain access to the public garden via an elevator. They pass through the membrane, which allows them to observe the thinness of the Wave Garden's ground plane.
Princeton University, School of Architecture, Thesis Projects, 2002
Storefront for Architecture, 2002
Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, National Design Triennial, 2004
2nd International Architecture Biennial Rotterdam, Flow, 2005