'Sonic Bloom' Showcasing Solar Power at Seattle Center

Aug 14, 2013

It looks a bit like something you might find in a book by Dr. Seuss: five huge sculpted sunflowers with striped green and orange stems.

The new installation outside Seattle’s Pacific Science Center is meant to draw in and educate the public about solar power. 

The installation is called “Sonic Bloom.” And as artist Dan Corson explains, sound is one of the things he uses to bring his latest sculpture to life. As you approach the striped stalks of his gigantic sunflowers, they interact with you by singing harmonic tones.

"So the idea is, if you’re really still here, it’s going to stop,” Corson says, pausing near a stem that falls silent for a moment. “And then all you have to do is move your arms to conduct, and it starts singing.”

High above, custom-designed solar panels sit in the center of the flowers and make their bright orange Plexiglas petals glow at night. During the day, the sun shines through them. Corson says the challenge was to celebrate the energy that comes from the sun, and make it tangible and captivating. 

The project, commissioned by Seattle City Light with support from its Green Up program, aims to get more people using solar power in their homes or paying extra to support community solar projects.

“And to understand that even here on the cloudy days that we have in Seattle, solar actually does work; you know, it works very well here,” Corson said.

In fact, sometimes the clouds here increase solar output by reflecting sun back onto photovoltaic panels.

A data display showing exactly how much power is produced by each flower and why will be installed in the Pacific Science Center this fall.