The City of Houston has unveiled the first look at the latest permanent public artwork that will be installed in the Second Ward in 2024. The sculpture is the first-ever environmentally sustainable art piece that will generate electricity for the nearby City-owned Latino multicultural performing arts theater.
Arco del Tiempo (Arch of Time) is a 100-foot tall arch designed by Berlin-based artist and architect Riccardo Mariano. Several years have been put into the making of this project, dating as far back as 2019. Mariano had entered the idea into a Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) design competition in the Houston sister-city of Abu Dhabi. From there, it was chosen to be developed full-scale and installed at Guadalupe Plaza Park.
According to a press release, the sculpture can measure time and cast beams of sunlight onto the ground, creating a connection between "the celestial and the terrestrial" through the geometry of the design.
The light beams are different based on the four seasons and the time of day, constantly shifting and responding to the latitude and longitude of the city from space. Mariano said that his sculpture is a "practical example" of how physical art can interact with the abstract, such as the Earth's movement around the sun.
"The apparent movement of the sun in the sky activates the space with light and colors and engages viewers who participate in the creation of the work by their presence," said Mariano. "Arco del Tiempo merges renewable energy generation with public space and into the everyday life of the Second Ward. Inspired by science and powered by renewable energy, the artwork is a bridge between art and technology and encourages educational purposes while improving public space. At night the space within the arch will be used as a stage for outdoor public events.”
"At night the space within the arch will be used as a stage for outdoor public events,” Riccardo Mariano said.Photo courtesy of The City of Houston
Arco del Tiempo will do more than just be an aesthetically pleasing sight for the community. Its meaningful, functional purpose will be to generate about 400,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, and power the Talento Bilingüe de Houston. LAGI founding co-director Elizabeth Monoian said in the release the sculpture will generate over 12 million kilowatt-hours of power throughout its lifetime, which equals the removal of 8,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
"Through the clean energy it produces, Arco del Tiempo will pay back its embodied carbon footprint," Monoian said. "In other words, all the energy that went into its making—from the smelting of the steel to the drilling that puts the final cladding into place—will be offset through the energy it generates. Beyond its break-even point, which we will track and celebrate with the community, the artwork will be a net-positive contributor to a healthy climate and the planet will be better off for its existence.”
In a statement, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner praised the unique art piece as more than just a sculpture, but as a "monument to a new era of energy."
"The City of Houston has always stood at the vanguard of energy innovation and the Arco del Tiempo artwork stands in that tradition, highlighting Houston’s role as an art city and as global leader in the energy transition," Mayor Turner said. "We are inspired by the vision and creative thinking. Marrying clean energy, the built environment, and truly World Class art is Houston.”
This article originally ran on CultureMap.