SWAYWAY - Feather Skyline on Staten Island, NY


Illustration of feather-shaped devices to convert energy

Students: Lise Mansfeldt ; Stine Redder Pedersen ; Christian Nygaard Sørensen
Supervisors: Holger Koss ; Teresa Surzycka ; Peter Sommer-Larsen


The Bachelor-level project in the educational line of Architectural Engineering at DTU-Byg focuses on combining different forms of renewable energy using latest developments in material technology. Project core is the design of an installation that converts energy from both solar and wind resources. A feather-shaped panel covered with photovoltaic elements is flexibly supported with a carbon-fibre spine allowing the installation to move dynamically under wind action. Piezoelectric polymers convert the oscillating foundations forces directly into electric power. The installation shall unite innovative application of different energy conversion techniques and architectural expression. In that respect the project is part of an architectural competition for a landfill recultivation on Staten Island, New York. Apart from the technical aspect the installation shall also demonstrate or visualise the presence and potential of natural resources to the public. Furthermore, the project participated in DTU's competition on sustainable technology, Grøn Dyst, 2012, and was awarded with 3rd place in the category of “Best Course Project on Bachelor Level” (see for more details here)..



Sustainable energy conversion and beautiful aesthetics is not a contradiction. The new millennium is the heyday of wind, water and solar power, and energy converting structures are thus obligated to act as the educational interface between natural energy sources and the consumer. By engaging energy consumers physically in the process of converting energy the structure conveys an understanding of natural energy systems. But how can sustainable energy be an experience? How can we “aestheticize” cutting edge energy conversion methods? How can this energy production device reflect the power, dynamic and diversity of natural forces or in other words potential energy resources?

Wind, wings & feathers

With respect to wind energy the conceptual design of the installation was developed as alternative to
the classical wind turbine. Wind-induced forces shall be translated to flexible motion of the installation.

Merging Energies: Wind & Sun

The answer can be found on Staten Island, NY. This fifth borough of New York City has the image of being the suburban leftovers from the economical and cultural high-roller party on Manhattan. During post-war decades the island was mostly known as landfill for the New York City area. This era ended in 2001 after the debris from the World Trade Center was deposited her. For the past decade the four mounds of Freshkill Landfill have been capped and the area started transforming into a vast recreational parksite. The new parksite of Freshkills Landfill offers great opportunities of exploring sustainable energy production in a large scale. However, the meteorological conditions of the New York area are far from constant. Greywater replaces sun, which replaces wind – and so forth. Creating an optimized energy producing structure requests the designers to take into account the ever-changing weather conditions and thus combining different, individual energy production methods. FEATHER SKYLINE is an example of how such strategy can be realized. It reflects the current meteorological conditions. A carbon skeleton with piezoelectric elements enables the structure to move by catching the wind in the solar sails mounted between the carbon rods. The structure is lit by shimmering LEDs to show the realtime variations of energy production. Carbon rods and the solar sails are only the visible part of the energy system: The structure is connected to a methane gas energy storage system, which is creating by using the existing decomposition management system that produces natural gas, providing electricity to more than 20,000 households in the New York area. Furthermore, the installation is tangled in the features of a smart grid, thus allocating energy to according to current consumption.

Wind Tunnel Testing

Simulation of the wind-induced vibration of the installation
with a scaled aero-elastic model in a wind-tunnel experiment.

Human Interaction

The hope is that Staten Island will gain a strong identity with its own landmarks – its own iconic skyline like that of Manhattan. The dynamics of the structure tells its own story of how energy is produced – and will be a story of how future energy production is not only a question of kWh, but also has to address equally aesthetics and human experience. Pure necessity or technological vision: Energy production can be beautiful.

Time series of base moment of sculpture under wind loading

Time series of the base moment. The stresses in the base structure
will be converted to electric energy through piezoelectric elements.

Main Elements of the Project

  • Research of different energy conversion concepts and materials.
  • Conceptual design of the installation.
  • Manufacturing of aero-elastic wind tunnel model (1:40).
  • Determination of energy potential in wind-induced structural vibration by wind-tunnel testing.
  • Analysis of wind tunnel test data.
  • Mapping energy potential for wind direction and velocity.
  • Structural design.