Walter Hood to Design Solar-Panel Wonderland in Buffalo

The University of Buffalo will soon break ground on a 1.1 megawatt installation, and a sprawling park intended to make solar energy beautiful.

Walter Hood

Fields of solar panel arrays are now popping up all across the United States, but the State University of New York, Buffalo, hopes to create the country’s most beautiful one yet–smack dab at the entrance to its North Campus.


The university just announced that renowned landscape architect Walter Hood will design a combination solar-array-landscape installation, with construction to begin this summer.

Hood won out in a three-way competition with artist Vito Acconci and landscape architecture firm Balmori (whom we’ve covered here and here). He calls his design “The Solar Strand”–a double reference to landscape formations and DNA strands–and it’ll be more than simply a solar array. The panels themselves will be surrounded by grasses and trees that blend in with the surrounding campus. Nestled among them will be three “social rooms”–outdoor spaces defined by hillocks and ponds with added seating that blends into the land.

Hood Design

And when complete, the 5,000 solar panels will be among the largest arrays on any college campus, expected to produce enough energy for 735 student apartments while reducing carbon emissions by 500 metric tons per year. At a cost of $7.5 million, it’s the first stage in a green development plan that will cost $21 million.

Hood’s probably best known for his superb work for the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco, which earlier this year helped him win the 2009 National Design Award.

About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.