Solyndra, ‘sh*t out of luck,’ reborn as art

Solyndra, the Fremont solar manufacturer on whom the Obama Administration – and taxpayers – lost a $535 million gamble as part of the economic stimulus package, has left at least one positive legacy: a work of architectural art.

SOL Grotto (photo by Matthew Millman)Oakland-based Rael San Fratello Architects, established in 2002 by partners Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, used glass tubes from the bankrupt and defunct Solyndra to create the “SOL Grotto,” described as “a space of solitude and close to nature where one is presented with a mediated experience of water, coolness and light” in the University of California Botanical Garden in Berkeley.

“The SOL Grotto also explores Solyndra’s role as a company Sh*t Out of Luck,” the website says. “1,368 of the 24 million high tech glass tubes destined to be destroyed as a casualty of their bankruptcy, are used in the installation.”

The project is part of the exhibit “Natural Discourse,” a collaborative project between the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley and a multi-disciplinary group of artists, writers, architects and researchers who have been invited to spend time in the Garden’s extraordinary collection of plants, engage with the horticulturists and develop new work.

“The tube’s original role as a light concentrating element is extended to transmit cool air into the space via the Venturi effect, to amplify sounds from the adjacent waterfall via the vibrations of the tubes cantilevering over the creek, and to create distorted views of the garden,” the site says. “The glass tubes are illuminated electric-blue naturally from the direct and ambient light that is conducted through the glass causing each tube to change in intensity throughout the day.”

“Collectively, the tubes take on the form of a cave wall or a waterfall, evoking Plato’s Allegory of the Cave where shadows, light and sounds call reality into question. The view through the rods is simultaneously kaleidoscopic and mesmeric and has become home to several insects found in the garden. The sound of a waterfall is present inside The SOL Grotto and the combination of sound, light, views and coolness filtering through the cracks in the flooring creates a highly sensorial space.”

Naturally, Republican lawmakers, conservative bloggers and Fox News are all over it.

Meanwhile, Reuters is reporting today that Seagate Technology, maker of hard drives and storage devices, has reached an agreement to buy Solyndra’s former manufacturing plant and headquarters building on Kato Road along I-880 in Fremont.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    Plato would have been amused by the antics of the Eco-freaks whose grasp of reality is tenuous at best.

  • Publius

    I propose turning the rest of the glass tubes into crack pipes to symbolize Obama’s pipe dream.

    The modern Allegory of the Crack Pipe, the American people hooked on government handouts.