As the HELIOtrope evolved over the past few years, frequently shifting between the front burner to the back shelf, it has seen many forms and iterations. Through the process, the goal has remained constant; create a highly visible urban landmark for cycling infrastructure and allow the mundane storage component of cycle facilities to depart from the ground plane. Ideally when navigating a new city or new part of town, the bike lanes and cycle tracks should be easy to find. Painted lanes while helpful for defining space for motorists, are not exceptionally helpful for off-route stranded cyclists. Therefore, a wayfinding pylon, nodallly linked with mass transit, could be instrumental in defining cycle infrastructure. In a post 9-11 world, transparency is essential on all scales of urban design. The bike locker, while effective and compact, may soon become, not dissimilar to the phone booth, a relic of the past. The result of this shift means that new storage solutions will be singular parking volumes controlled with secure access. As real estate adjacent to mass transit comes at a premium, a solution that goes up and not out is the best. With this approach, as storage capacity grows, so too does visibility.
Initially the design began as a 'bike tree,' in that the intended purpose was for the standard bicycle. As the success of bike-share programs grew and the ZIPcycle design came into focus (see previous post), the HELIOtrope became a dispensary for a ZIPcycle sharing program. However, the intent here is for storage of privately owned traditional bicycles as well as a ZIPcycle component. In the most ideal scenario however, energy generation would be linked over the rail through induction to batteries powering electric assist ZIPcycle drivetrains. When a HELIOtrope is empty or vehicle batteries are full, through a grid tie approach, energy could be delivered to the surrounding grid.
While the whimsical nature nature of bike storage becoming the dry cleaning rack of the urban street-scape cannot be undermined, the form is derived from the ubiquitous street tree. As an ellipse connected to a vertical line is the common abstracted sketch for a tree, the HELIOtrope is the metaphor for the tree. To continue this thought, so too do the photovoltaic cells dispersed across the anticlastic ETFE membrane dapple light and generate energy as a leaf does. Of course this abstraction could be continued to absurdity, as bikes growing on trees... beyond the tree, the structure is not dissimilar from the rim of a bicycle, albeit a 'tacoed' or bent rim. A metal rim held in tension in this case by a membrane and not spokes and hub. The kinetic nature of shuffling bicycles across a spline and a slow but consistent rotation to follow the movement of the sun is ultimately appropriate to its intended purpose; the motion based nature of active transit.