This Beach umbrella unfolds a photovoltaic array that uses solar energy to cool you!

Beaches are meant for hot summer days. But what if we can use our umbrella to give us shade and blow some cool wind our way? That is the question Italy’s leading gelato and frozen desserts brand Sammontana brought to the international design firm Carlo Ratti Associati and architect Italo Rota. The result is an ingenious method that gives this popular, ever-present beach accessory a whole new level. This design is a part of Sammontana’s initiative to reduce the environmental impact of its activities, inspired by the principles put forward in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The beach umbrella comes with an origami-inspired design that unfolds to display a photovoltaic array that generates electric power which gets used for further refrigeration and cooling for the beach people. Measuring 2.5 meters high and a 3.2 meter diameter, this umbrella’s transformation brings to mind the mechanisms we see on the NASA spacecrafts. The entire setup can be used individually or be rigged together to generate electricity that can even run an ice cream freezer on the beachside. Its perfect for a private beach or even a luxury beach resort where these umbrellas can be deployed to keep the machines churning.

“Can we use the power of the abundant summer sunshine to make our holiday experience more sustainable?” says Carlo Ratti, founder of CRA and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “The design concept of this project starts from using the sun to produce electricity to cool the space under the umbrella – and then scale it up to provide power to any beach resort. We are delighted that Sammontana invited us to develop this project, as both our organizations share a strong commitment to environmental values and human wellbeing.” “The project builds on Sammontana’s objective to lower the environmental impact potentially applicable to Italian beaches – which are the iconic backdrops where Sammontana is served, marking the most pleasant and joyful moments of summer,” says Sibilla Bagnoli, Head of Communication and Image at Sammontana Italia. “For many years, our company has been focusing on such special environments, experimenting with new ways to welcome the public, manage services and innovate while protecting the environment.”

A prototype of this design will be exhibited from June 12th to August 8th, 2021 at BAM-Biblioteca Degli Alberi Milano Park, showcasing how our everyday objects have such a huge scope for innovation, we only need to look deeper!

Designer: Carlo Ratti Associati