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Solar street art for a participatory energy transition

Nicoletti, Eleonora


Eleonora Nicoletti


The need to reduce global carbon emissions drives the renewable energy transition which can deeply transform cities. Façade retrofit plays an important role in improving the energy performance of the existing building stock. In renovation projects, the integration of photovoltaics into the building envelope can supply existing properties with electrical energy generated from sunlight while enhancing the appearance of urban blocks and facilitating the move towards zero- and positive-energy districts.

Generally driven by real estate investment, urban renovations tend to exclude residents from the decision-making process informing the design of building facades. On the other hand, urban communities have developed forms of expression such as street art that use façades as media. Bristol is particularly rich in street art, which can raise questions about what the facades of the renewable energy transition could look like in this city and how they could be designed to continue serving the role of media for expression for the local community.

This paper presents the outcomes of a design research experiment that engaged Bristol community members in the speculative co-design of solar facades for the city. It reviews a public exhibition which showed design concepts for solar facades integrating photovoltaics and street art, that five renowned Bristol artists developed as the outputs of co-design workshops with local building design stakeholders and residents. Through a discussion of the exhibition, the paper highlights the challenges and potential of street art for contributing to a more inclusive and participatory energy transition.


Nicoletti, E. (2023, December). Solar street art for a participatory energy transition. Paper presented at Local Cultures – Global Spaces: Communities, People and Place, Virtual: New York, Hong Kong, Melbourne

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name Local Cultures – Global Spaces: Communities, People and Place
Conference Location Virtual: New York, Hong Kong, Melbourne
Start Date Dec 5, 2023
End Date Dec 7, 2023
Deposit Date Feb 14, 2024
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information The project 'Towards Solar Facades as Participatory Public Art' was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), ​part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), under the Design Accelerator scheme (Grant Ref: AH/X003574/1). The engagement activities were coordinated by the project partner Upfest and involved the participation of the solar technology partner BIPVco.
The author's participation in the conference was funded by UWE Bristol.