International design studio Carlo Ratti Associati has collaborated with Dubai’s Museum of the Future to develop a new digital shading system that combines the cooling of outdoor areas with solar power generation.

'Sun & Shade', the digitally-controlled canopy features a reflecting surface based on an array of mirrors that track the sun. Each mirror moves on a double axis, reflecting the sun’s rays away from the ground and allowing precise control of the desired level of shading and natural cooling underneath the canopy. These reflected rays are concentrated on a photovoltaic receiver, located a safe distance away to generate electric power.

Sun & Shade’s first working prototype was unveiled in Dubai during the 2017 World Government Summit, as part of the 'Reimagining Climate Change' exhibit at the Museum of the Future.

Carlo Ratti, Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston and a founding partner of Carlo Ratti Associati explained that Sun & Shade’s design was inspired by the Middle Eastern tradition of shadowing in architecture and public space. The digital shading system takes this concept to the next level by allowing shadowing to be digitally controlled. While reflected sun is concentrated far away, producing heat at a safe distance from people, the space underneath the canopy cools down.


This system is expected to have extraordinary application scope, especially in cities such as Dubai in terms of increasing climate comfort and making these places inhabitable all year long, all the while producing clean energy for the community.

Sun & Shade is part of Carlo Ratti Associati’s ongoing research into using digital technologies for climate adaptation.

Antonio Atripaldi, project manager at Carlo Ratti Associati says they are excited to debut Sun & Shade at the ‘Reimagining Climate Change’ exhibition in Dubai, and showcase its incredible potential for helping cities adapt to climate change. The hybrid nature of the canopy - half power infrastructure, half architecture for public space - allows more control over the surroundings. While cities such as Dubai with their hot, arid climates can use these canopies to cover streets or open squares, conversely, cold places can have the system concentrate the sun’s rays underneath the canopy to heat the environment, allowing people to enjoy the outdoors all year round.


The exhibition 'Reimagining Climate Change' highlights the inevitability of major environmental change in our lifetime and the importance of adapting to it proactively.

Images Carlo Ratti Associati