In two weeks, the German city of Dortmund will receive a strange little sculpture adjacent to the city's main square. It's a rock. But it's a rock that also has Wi-Fi, eight outlets, four lockers that can charge electronics, one wind turbine, and two solar panels.
Four artists, including three Germans and one Norwegian, came up with the idea for "Stein mit Vollausstattung," which roughly translates to "stone with full equipment." Of course, that translation does sort of miss out on the linguistic joke contained within. "Vollausstattung" really refers to all the features of a brand new car.
"If you buy it with full Vollausstattung, you buy a car with everything included," says Stian Ådlandsvik, one of the collaborators. "Full air conditioning, top features, all that."
Ådlandsvik, Lutz-Rainer Müller, Mark Pepper, and Thomas Woll were invited to Dortmund, a west German city that is now very famous for its football (read: soccer) team, by the local arts council. Dortmund is one of the largest cities in Germany, but was particularly devastated by World War II, and as a result, was rebuilt extensively in severe post-war style. (That influence lingers. Last fall, German authorities detected a 4,000-pound bomb left over from the war and ordered 20,000 citizens to evacuate while they neutralized it.)
The artists were intrigued by the possibilities afforded by a new shape in the city, so they decided to expand the sculpture's capabilities. First, they wanted to go back to the earliest roots of sculpture—something carved from stone—and make it interactive. Eventually, they settled for concrete in the shape of a rock.
"Stein" also takes advantage of a brisk wind corridor between a pedestrian street and a larger boulevard. It's not somewhere people might normally hang out, but that makes it the perfect place for a wind turbine, the artists discovered. Tack that onto solar, and "Stein" is wholly self-sufficient.
The artists are hoping people actually use it. The lockers, they imagine, people can use to charge their laptops and cell phones while they go shopping nearby. They're also hoping it will stimulate conversation about renewable energy—a hot topic of debate in Germany as the country moves away from coal.
"[Stein is] looking at the different possibilities of having green energies within the border of a city, and not just on the mountains where no one is," Ådlandsvik said. "It's shaking up structures within this, and doing something a lot of people deemed impossible within city boundaries."