What lives in the desert, changes color throughout the day, and is powered by sustainable energy? That would be the chameleon-like Lucid Stead, by artist Phillip K Smith III: an Arduino-equipped, solar-powered shack in Joshua Tree, San Bernadino County, California.

A curious blend of architecture and art project, Lucid Stead is located on a sizable plot of land owned by the artist himself. The venerable shack is thought to date back to the 1940s, and remained largely unchanged until a few months ago, when inspiration struck and Smith decided to do something with it.

The design process involved adding mirrored strips to the exterior of the shack, and installing a custom Arduino-controlled electronics setup inside. The Arduino is programmed to slowly change the color of several LEDs, also placed inside, which shine light out of the four windows and door as the day progresses. It's a simple enough concept, but the effect is striking and makes the building seem to almost disappear, or glow, depending on its state.

The Arduino and LED lighting are powered by solar panels, as Smith felt it essential that visitors to the installation not be distracted by any sounds of generators running – though the use of sustainable energy appealed to the artist too.

The solar panels in question were installed some distance away from the shack on a temporary frame, hidden behind already existing desert plants. A battery array is also located on the same framework, to provide power at night.

Working in collaboration with local solar provider Hot Purple Energy, Smith took great pains to hide all wiring and other obvious signs of the work that went into transforming the shack, which included burying the necessary cables beneath the desert sand.

Smith reports that he has no plans to produce any other versions of the Lucid Stead, but has rented a property nearby in order to facilitate his documenting the project with photographs and drawings.

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