In keeping with Philippe Starck's philosophy of creating practical objects with a sense of aesthetics and functionality, the designer has created a couple chic wind turbines, named Revolutionair. The hip French designer first unveiled his sketches in 2008, working with Italian generator company Pramac to make them a reality. This sleek look offers another image of the classic three-blade turbine we've come to love - and some hate. If Starck's designer windmills were whirling around mountaintops, would North Carolina ban wind farms because they're "ugly"?
Whisk-shaped windmill for the garden. Photo courtesy of Pramac
I've never found windmills unsightly; not the quaint Dutch kind or today's towering elegant minimalist versions. When I first saw rows and rows of them on a hillside in the 1990s in the California desert, twirling at different speeds, I felt awestruck. While I understand the objection to disrupting views of nature's green landscapes with machinery, my emotional connection with the beauty of wind-powered farms providing clean energy perhaps is as powerful as those who may find them a blight. Not to mention their other questionable objections to windmills.
With a vision that's a step ahead of most industrial design, Starck's rectangular and whisk-shaped wind turbines are intended for residences and businesses, claiming to generate 20 to 60 percent of a home's energy needs. They fit in the garden or on the roof, with a power output of 400W for the quadrangular 400W WT model measuring 90 centimeters (three feet) without its stand, and the 1.45 meter helicoidal-shaped 1KW WT one yielding one kilowatt of power. Revolutionair's vertical-axis turbines are quiet, run independent of wind direction but take advantage of turbulence, according to Pramac.
The prototype was mentioned along with several other home turbine designs in Treehugger, as the one you wish you could buy, wondering whether the design would ever actually be produced, especially with the modest price of an estimated $500. Well, now you can, though the cost jumped significantly to a hefty $3,500. With an average home racking up $1,000 in annual energy costs, a Revolutionair windmill could pay itself back within a few years. However, built in Italy, it's got a big footprint to ship.
Images courtesy of Visual Pharm
Designers should define their role as "agents of good," Starck has said among his other environmentally-friendly comments. "There are already thousands of really really good chairs." Well, besides designing chic interiors, hotels and a couple of his own iconic chairs, including the Ghost Chair and famous Bubble Club Chair, Starck's products include everything from toothbrushes to the award-winning spider-like juicer by Alessi. But in his show, Democratic Ecology, with Pramac, he showed off these personal wind turbines, saying, "Ecology is not just an urgency of the economy and protection of our world, but also of creativity." He proves that the utilitarian doesn't have to look ugly, in fact he sees these windmills as "invisible."