• 01.08.16

This Power Plant’s Moiré Chimney Is A Dazzling Ad For Clean Energy

The Optic Cloak uses design to bring attention to the power plant flue it obscures.

This Power Plant’s Moiré Chimney Is A Dazzling Ad For Clean Energy
[All Photos (unless otherwise noted): via CF Møller Architects]

The moiré effect is an optical illusion that makes static objects look like they’re constantly in flux. You see it pretty often used in video and printing, but a new work by British artist Conrad Shawcross applies the moiré effect to architecture. His piece The Optic Cloak will be a 160-foot-tall moiré-sheathed monument covering a power plant chimney, creating a surface that appears to be constantly shifting.


Shawcross’s glittering monument is designed to draw attention to the sustainable mission of the plant it’s part of: the new Greenwich Peninsula Low Carbon Energy Center, which aims to provide power to homes and businesses in southeast London through the use of efficient, environmentally-friendly boilers (hence the chimney, or flue).

The piece, which was created in collaboration with CF Møller Architects and is slated for completion in April 2016, will be constructed from aluminum cladding with triangular perforated panels that fold across the surface of the tower in intricate geometric patterns. Because the perforations in these massive panels are overlaid at different angles to another, the uneven surface of the Optic Cloak will appear to swim, almost as if it was moving.

Wiki Commons

Although the Optic Cloak will be hard to miss when completed, Shawcross says his inspiration for the tower was actually camouflage: in particular, dazzle camo, a type of camouflage used in World War I and II meant to obscure a ship’s range, speed, and heading from the enemy with bold, contrasting patterns.

“I wanted to create a response that celebrates the commission’s function as a part of the Energy Center’s flue, rather than trying to hide it,” Shawcross says in the Optic Cloak’s press release. “I started to research the history of camouflage as I was intrigued by its seemingly paradoxical nature–often it makes the object or animal it’s disguising more visually arresting.”

Instead of trying to hide the least attractive part of a power plant–the chimney–the Optic Cloak draws attention to it, so people can see for themselves the conspicuous lack of carbon coming out of it. It’s a wonderful idea that uses camouflage not for obfuscation, but for transparency.

The Optic Cloak is due to be completed in April, 2016. You can read more about the Greenwich Peninsula Energy Center project here.