500 SOLI


Alessandra Monarcha

Odysseas Yiannikouris

Villa Medici, Roma 2018

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21 06 - Villa Medici, Roma

Summer Solstice


31 05 - Villa Medici, Roma

Opening of the exhibition "Take me (I'm Yours)



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Cinquecento Soli (500 Soli) was first shown in May 2018 in Rome, as part of the exhibition Take me (I’m yours), curated by Christian Boltanski, Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Chiara Parisi.

220 reflecting surfaces are collectively organized and individually adjusted to project 220 sunsets into the north-east oriented Loggia of the Villa Medici.
The 31st of May, 220 mirrors shifted the Cosmos toward the Villa, as people witnessed the first ever sunset this space had known for 430 years.

The installation was conceived alongside a study on our cultural relationship to energy, as an allusion to the infrastructural landscape emerging in the Mediterranean’s backcountry. It stood as a phenomenological experiment of the contemporary energetic city which territory extends far from its formal limits. As we were focusing on the production of architecture in this landscape, and on the perspectives we could bring to it, we followed two intuitional paths for 500 Soli’s conception: Analogue design and Collective energies.

The installation covers a 35 x 50 m area. It is made of 55 timber pillars distributed on a radial grid. Despite the topographic variations of the Piazzale, each one is standing straight in relation to Earth, and despite its large span, each one is turned the same way towards the sun. The 55 pillars are holding 220 mirrors, individually adjusted to project the reflection of the setting sun to the single space of the Loggia.

The installation is built as an individual spatial and temporal experiment, to which we, planners and craftsmen, found ourselves unrelated. Our aesthetic choices, the conceptual and building processes, the layout and the alignments... every of our design decisions were part and parcel of the phenomenon it sought to produce. That’s why it is large and that’s why we aimed for perfection : so it can turn experiential.

The 31st of May, as twilight came, the three-hours phenomenological experiment begun : 500 Soli turned to be a spectacular lecturer of our potential for relating to energy and its substances.

The 31st of May, just as plants, many were gathering enthusiasm directly from the sun, just as if they got energized through air and rays.

The 31st of may, we witnessed that we could all, instinctively and collectively, use our forgotten photo-receptive cells and synapses to produce a collective energy.


500 soli is one of our first art installation, but that doesn’t mean it has no depth. It has all the depth of years of practice and thinking and projects and drawings… just as if the memories of each and every of our previous works (we had frustratedly done on paper) offloaded into our arms and our screwdrivers and gave birth to the perfect prototype at first attempt. It took us two weeks to conceive, built and install everything. It will take us years to fully understand what we’ve achieved, as the emotional power of the installation is absurdly disproportioned compared to its crafting.


The installation was designed and built alongside a research lead at the Villa Medici on our cultural relationship to energy and its substances which axiom is as follows : we stand at a shifting period of ours where Nature, through its many expressions of violence is challenging every aspect of a modernistic culture built over a blinded confidence into progress. But as Bruno Latour stated, this last has always failed at producing anything but « hybrids»: never has any technical breakthrough been able to solve an issue, and never have its implications refrain from expending out of its area. This way, not only is our technique unable to lead us to some significant progress due to its lack of foresight of interactions, but also the impact of its application tends to worsen some conditions standing out of its scope of expertise or boundaries of governance. And should one overlook the way we are addressing the ecological crisis, one would get the immediate feeling that something, lying deep in our poor abilities of awareness, is dis-empowering us of consistent actions. The resistance we had proofed into learning about complexities of Nature (in the broader of its sens) is such that one could feel our culture was all built upon the belief that We Will Vanquish; culture versus nature eternally. And so we are: still expecting we can face each issue one after the other, without precautions, without predictions, without integration, by adding little knowledge to our global dysfunctional know-how; and even when everything is backlashing to our face. And how does the ecological concern affects our built landscape? By adding tools and regulations to the designer’s production. And in this process, this last is finding himself narrowed to arranging, again and again, the same materials in the same manners; thus seeing a new, ever-the-same, everywhere-the-same, landscape of boredom emerging. Yet the architectures of energy have beautiful definitions: it is of the Cosmos, of the fluids and the climates, bearing the opportunity to reform our aesthetics and the matters of our mesmerization.


The Villa Medicis is a Renaissance Palazzo. It is built on a hilltop (the Pincio) alongside a Renaissance garden which was designed as both a place for Nature and a gallery to display the art collection of its owner. Therefore, the south-west city-facing facade is plain and sober: to Rome, it is a massive silhouette turning bright orange at twilight, overhanging the overcrowded and mineral Piazza Di Spagna. But for the one invited in, its north-east garden-facing facade is a museum of antic art with views on the peacefulness of Nature. Dug in the center of the building’s volume, mirrored to the grand salon, is the Loggia: a sizable open-air room that conveys people to the gardens through a Palladian-window like opening: a place for beauty and contemplation that has never seen a sunset. Thus the idea was simple: flipping the Cosmos around the Villa and making the sun sets in the Loggia for the first time in 430 years. We turned ourselves to the objects of our study: the aesthetics and characteristics of the piece would be borrowed to the modern techniques of energy production (when looked at, through the prism of our own perspective). The installation organizes 220 reflecting surfaces (precisely arranged in space and adjusted individually) into an architecture alluding to the infrastructural landscape emerging in the Mediterranean’s backcountry. Thus being for the viewer (the urban highly educated visitor of the exhibition) a first phenomenological experiment of the diffuse and out-of-sight condition of the contemporary energetic city, which territory extends far beyond its formal limits. Therefore, while questioning the local implication of energy production, the piece becomes an invitation to explore a landscape unknown to the visitor, using images of an object he is familiar with. Focusing on energy and its inherent production of architecture got us to two intuitional paths, the two principles of 500 soli’s conception: collective energy \ analogue


... Collective Energy>



... Phenomenon >



... Take me >



... Analogue >