No prize, but there’s a future for pergola panels

Although pergola panels, the finalist from Wageningen in the Post-Fossil City contest, didn’t win first prize, there’s definitely hope for these sun shades.
Roelof Kleis

© Tom van Heeswijk

Pergola panels were envisioned by Tom van Heeswijk, now a graduate of landscape architecture. He concentrated his Master’s thesis on applying durable energy in the city and designed pergola-like canopies using the newest sort of flexible and transparent solar panels. These canopies can be placed over terraces, squares, shopping streets and even motorways.


Van Heeswijk and his supervisors continued to develop the idea and were chosen as one of the ten finalists in the Post-Fossil City contest held by Utrecht University. The winner was announced last night at the final ceremony: not the pergola panels but the Ark van het Nieuwste Verbond [Ark of the New Covenant] by the designer duo BreukersGodrie. The ten commandments of the ‘new ark’ call for more awareness of how you should interact with one another in the city of the future.

Support Services intends to consider this in the plan for the Dialogue Center

Wiebke Klemm, researcher Green & Blue Living Labs

‘It’s a shame,’ Van Heeswijk said. ‘The Ark is a very abstract and philosophical design, actually just the opposite of our very concrete proposal. But I received a lot of very positive and enthusiastic reactions. The project is going to continue. We’ll continue to network with cities and companies to realize our goal of building a pilot.’


It’s not possible to build a pilot like that on the campus, said landscape architect Wiebke Klemm, a member of Van Heeswijk’s team. We envision the sun pergola as a roof of the Amphitheatre on the campus. ‘Support Services intends to consider this idea in the plan for the Dialogue Center and thus start a pilot on the campus.’

Sun pergolas on the campus offer the possibilities of living labs where scientists can research an application on location. According to Klemm, some possible research subjects include the effects of the pergola panels on the environment, the microclimate, noise barriers and visual observations and behaviour. ‘For example, does such a canopy lead to awareness, to making people think about sustainability and energy consumption when solar panels have another function rather than being hidden away on a roof?’

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