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Harvesting the Wind

The architecture of renewable energy
Karolina Kawiaka
Karolina Kawiaka (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

Karolina Kawiaka, a senior lecturer in studio art and a practicing architect, saw a controversial wind farm proposal on Cape Cod as a rare opportunity for her Architecture 2/3 class. The proposed plan calls for 130 wind turbines, each over 400-feet tall, off the Cape's southern shore. Proponents say the wind farm would supply clean, renewable energy to Cape Cod and nearby islands. Opponents argue that the turbines will mar the area's natural beauty and have a negative impact on local ecology. The Boston Society of Architects (BSA) challenged professional and student architects, artists, and designers to come up with creative solutions that would please everyone involved in the debate.

Kawiaka says the challenge appealed to her as a class assignment because, "Competitions are a time-honored way to teach architecture. Practical constraints are a useful tool, so I usually look for real-life projects. The fact that this one involved renewable, sustainable energy made it particularly interesting to the class," she says. Kawiaka's students embraced the challenge wholeheartedly, producing a collection of innovative designs that reimagine both beauty and power.

"My design went through a few iterations," says Adam Slutsky '06, whose structure resembles a series of interlocking curves with a panoramic view of the wind turbines. "It evolved throughout the process." Kawiaka asked her students to do a site analysis, research the geological history of Cape Cod, the socioeconomic history of the area, and the ecology of the site, (Kalmus Beach). "They studied the history of wind power and researched different types of wind turbines, and I asked them to investigate other sustainable methods of generating energy," she says.

Jessica Vyrostko '06
Jessica Vyrostko '06, a student in Karolina Kawiaka's architecture class, presents her design for a proposed wind farm in Massachusetts. (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

Jessica Vyrostko '06 says the research solidified some of the theoretical challenges of the ideas competition. "Some of us researched different wind farms around the world, and we verified a lot of the information given to us in the competition guidelines." Vyrostko's design features an open, pavilion-like building with a curving ramp and rooftop viewing platform. In considering the Kalmus Beach site, she says, "I think the turbines are beautiful, like artwork, really, and [yet] people see them as an awful, thing, as a factory." Vyrostko, like many of her classmates, hopes that ideas like hers will help shift that perspective, allowing Cape Cod residents to see the wind turbines as beautiful in both function and form. She compares the modern structures to prized and picturesque Dutch windmills. "I wanted to make a hub on the beach, just so people could see the turbines, to draw people toward this site where you get this awesome view," she adds.

"People say wind power is ugly — I couldn't disagree more," says Slutsky. "I think it's elegant, a slam dunk for Massachusetts." He adds, "It's difficult for most young people to understand why people find wind power ugly."

Vyrostko says, "It should be an honor to have the first offshore wind farm."

The students' designs will be displayed at a Northeast Sustainable Energy Association conference in March, where the hope is they will help inspire a creative solution to the wind farm debate.

By GENEVIEVE HAAS

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Last Updated: 5/30/08