A Solar-Powered Parasol To Protect Pedestrians From Smokers And Bad Weather

These fanciful shelters, designed for the streets of Paris, go much further than just providing a little shelter on city streets.

Every once in awhile, fanciful urban designs actually get brought to life by a visionary city. In Boston, for example, George Zisiadis’s oversized hearts turn the human pulse into music at five sites across the city. Now Paris residents may soon enjoy another entrant in the 2012 Urban Prototyping Festival: solar-powered urban parasols.


Created by design research lab Amorphica and urban planner Leemor Chandally, the parasol is meant to filter the air and give light, heat, and shelter to anyone standing underneath. It was conceived as a DIY project that could be put together by anyone with access to PVC piping and a 3-D printing fabrication lab. The parasol designed for Paris is “more institutionalized,” according to associate architect Julia Cerrud. It’s made out of metal, and comes with LED lights, heaters, and air filters, all powered by embedded solar panels. The device’s light sensors allow it to track the sun, ensuring that maximum solar energy is soaked up at all times of day.

The parasol, estimated to cost $15,000 when mass-produced, is designed to be attached to urban structures like bus stops and lamp posts.

None of the parasols have been installed in Paris yet, but the design did win the recent Citymart challenge, which asked entrants to come up with outdoor urban structures that provide heat and absorb the city’s pervasive cigarette smoke, made worse by the fact that smokers now hover outside due to a ban on indoor smoking. Still, Cerrud admits, “We’ve done all this research, models, and simulations, but we haven’t been able to build a prototype because we haven’t been able to secure funding and go and do a pilot program.

The Amorphica team is hoping for a grant to come through to build prototypes in Paris, but they are also looking at other cities, including Tijuana and Chicago.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.