Melbourne solar PV playground buzzes on petals power

Rising from a rare patch of green in Fitzroy, the black outline of Coal Flowers is like an obituary to carbon that’s been written against the sky.

Local kids climb onto its platforms and slide down its chute, thinking of nothing much more than how good it feels to run and shout. The arty types who wander past on their way down Brunswick Street might appreciate the Gothic symbolism in this dark urban garden.

But once everyone spots the solar panels up above, sculptor Benjamin Gilbert is hoping the message will come across loud and clear: clean energy has beaten coal, and that’s that. So let’s have fun!

To Gilbert, panels as petals makes sense. It doesn’t really matter if they’re not all lined up neatly in a row.

“I didn’t appreciate the limitations of standard systems when I drew the scheme … I just wanted to draw the clear relationships between flowers essentially being solar panels,” Gilbert says.

“It’s grounded in something a bit more real for people, rather than being this high-tech land-on-the-moon stuff, and for the kids to make that connection, that it’s free abundant energy.”

Opportunities to play

Cubbies started life as a community park necessitated by the dislocation that came with high-rise state housing. “Once upon a time the mothers could look out the back door and call the kids for dinner,” says David Weston, co-chair of the Fitzroy Adventure Playground. “Whereas if the mother is on the 15th floor of a high-rise apartment, chances are the children are down in the open spaces unsupervised.”

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