Arco del Tiempo (Arch of Time), the City of Houston's latest work of permanent art in public space — a generative and permanent sculptural installation—will be installed in the city’s East End, Houston’s Second Ward Complete Community, in 2024.
The artwork by Berlin-based artist and architect Riccardo Mariano takes the form of a 100-foot-tall triumphal arch and serves as a gateway to Houston’s East End / Segundo barrio neighborhood. It is also an interactive time-measuring device that creates a thread between the celestial and the terrestrial by beaming sunlight onto the ground plane of Guadalupe Plaza Park. Each beam of light is uniquely composed throughout the seasons and hours of the day by the geometry of the artwork, which responds to the specific latitude and longitude of Houston.
Incorporating solar modules into the south-facing exterior of the sculpture, Arco del Tiempo (Arch of Time) will generate approximately 400,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year, equivalent to the demand of forty Texas homes and offset more than 100% of the power demand of the nearby Talento Bilingüe de Houston a generational City-owned Latino cultural hub for performing arts in the East End.
"This unique artwork is more than a sculpture. It is a renewable energy power plant. It is a monument to a new era of energy,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “The City of Houston has always stood at the vanguard of energy innovation and the Arco del Tiempo (Arch of Time) artwork stands in that tradition, highlighting Houston’s role as an art city and as global leader in the energy transition. We are inspired by the vision and creative thinking. Marrying clean energy, the built environment, and truly World Class art is Houston.”
The project is the culmination of many years of planning by the Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI), a nonprofit dedicated to advancing climate solutions through art and design. It is being made possible by a variety of donors with initial seed funding from the Acronym Fund, a foundation dedicated to advancing arts and culture established by Donald and Barbara Tober. In 2021, the directors of LAGI were invited to speak at the annual CODAworx public art conference, CODAsummit, presenting the Barbara Tober Keynote Address: Reimagining Public Art as Energy Landscapes for a Post-Carbon World.
LAGI’s vision of the energy transition is one in which artists and designers play a key role in bringing renewable energy technologies into landscapes and cities, using solar modules and other clean tech as media for creative expression and placemaking. In this way they hope to turn the climate conversation from one of despair to one of excitement. Since 2008 they have been holding open call international design competitions for cities around the world and have amassed a portfolio of thousands of ideas to demonstrate how renewable energy can be beautiful.
One of those ideas is Arco del Tiempo (Arch of Time), originally an entry to the LAGI 2019 design competition for Abu Dhabi (a Houston sister city). Through a competitive process, Riccardo Mariano’s artwork was chosen by the city to be implemented at full scale in Guadalupe Plaza Park. Through his engagement with the community, Riccardo has given his art a new title and modified its details to fit the context of the park and the uses of the plaza.
Elizabeth Monoian, Founding Co-director of the Land Art Generator Initiative spoke about what makes a work of art regenerative. “Over its lifetime, the artwork will generate more than 12 million kilowatt-hours of clean, renewable energy—the equivalent of removing 8,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Through the clean energy it produces, Arco del Tiempo (Arch of Time) will pay back its embodied carbon footprint. 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.”
Speaking about his ideas behind the artwork, the artist Riccardo Mariano adds, “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. It is a practical example to illustrate the movement of the earth around the sun in a playful way. Arco del Tiempo (Arch of Time) 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.”
Tracing the path of the sun across the sky, Arco del Tiempo (Arch of Time) is both a monumental sculpture and a shaded place to meet, linger, experience, and perform. The new public sculpture welcomes locals and visitors and will soon become a new destination for the city of Houston.