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History of Mueller SunFlowers in 60 Seconds

Picture of Hannah Phillips
Updated: 7 June 2017
Austin’s largest public art installation is also one of its least known. Located on the east side of I-35, the Mueller SunFlowers is a work of art with a purpose, returning electricity to the city’s power grid. Fifteen flower-shaped photovoltaic solar panels collect the sun’s energy during the day, which powers a beautiful and complex series of blue LED lights at night. So far, the cobalt blue petals have produced almost 400,000 kilowatt-hours of energy, which you can monitor in real-time on the landmark’s website. The solar energy generated is enough to offset over 565,000 miles of carbon emissions from the average American car.

The public art team of Mags Harries and Lajos Heder, who have designed and installed over 30 public art projects across the country, created the SunFlowers by blending elements of light, color, and shadow with the science behind renewable energy—they completed the project in 2009. In a process facilitated by the City of Austin’s Art in Public Places program, a total of 37 proposals were submitted, and a panel of visual art and design professionals, along with community input, selected Harries and Heder’s SunFlowers for the entrance to the Mueller neighborhood as they were the overwhelming favorites.

According to the artists, the site is “an icon for the sustainable, LEED certified Mueller Development and a highly visible metaphor for the energy conscious City of Austin.” As part of your visit, check out our guide to the best things to see and do in Mueller; created after the closure of the Robert Mueller Airport, this mixed-use urban village is one of the most desirable places to live in the U.S., and its developers have long championed a message of ecological stewardship.

The SunFlowers fit with that theme, offering both sustainable energy and a beautiful aesthetic to a growing urban area. To enjoy the landmark, visitors can slow down on the access road to I-35 after Airport Boulevard. View the landmark from your car, or turn right to park in the shopping centers on Barbara Jordan Boulevard, named for the first Southern African-American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. For a more hands-on experience, a trail for pedestrian and cyclists winds among the giant stems of the SunFlowers.