The Eastgate Piazza always had a difficult climate to manage – extreme heat, extreme cold, wind and overwhelming glare made it fairly inhospitable. It also suffered from a lack of identity and the shape also made it geometrically challenging to accommodate activities.
A conceptual solution came from Baines’ Baobabs in the Botswana Nxai Pan National Park. Among the dozens of salt pans in Botswana, these baobabs created an identity, a photo opportunity and above all, a sense of place that connected with traveller’s from far and wide. The trees are said to be more than 1000 years old, but it was Thomas Baines’ paintings of them that made them and the beautiful natural surroundings within which they sit, famous.
The implementation of trees seemed to solve the key issues that were identified to activate the piazza at Eastgate. They are a series of sculptural elements or public art that give the space a uniqueness on top of providing shade, shelter, containment and a sense of place. From the idea of a ‘Garden of Eden’ evolved other fun, family elements such as the green wall, Tree of Life, the animal sculptures
and play equipment. The Solar trees were continually evolved to achieve the harmonious and sculpted geometries often
found in nature. They are self-reliant – harnessing energy from the sun to provide a source of renewable energy to the centre whilst increasing the public’s awareness of sustainable green methods of preserving energy. They would come alive at night through an intricate array of LED lights that would automatously and gradually illuminate based on the diurnal rhythm and energy generation of the day. This system of transferred energy into an autonomous LED feature had not been done before therefore much research and testing went into the development of a customised electrical and lighting system. The structure is comprised of tubular hollow steel sections. These are the most cost effective components to use as they offer a good strength to weight ratio and are extremely flexible in terms of “bendability”. They are also easy to “splice” or join and can be divided up into components for transportation and installation.