Long before smoke-spouting power plants were relegated to the remote outskirts of the industrial city, large-scale energy generators were common sights in urban landscapes. Pushback from the public about reintroducing these structures to their cities prompted the husband-and-wife creative team of architect Robert Ferry and artist Elizabeth Monoian to found the Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) with a single goal: to integrate clean-energy producers back into the cityscape, interpreting them more as public art installations than merely utilitarian eyesores.
Last year, LAGI launched its first international design competition as a means to put a positive spin on the three-blade wind turbine—and all other green power plants. Interdisciplinary teams of artists, architects, scientists, and engineers were invited to submit entries for a site-specific renewable-energy installation in the United Arab Emirates, where expansive panoramas, bountiful natural resources, and a burgeoning built environment made for the ideal trial location.
Many designs took into account the desert environment, fusing clean-energy technology with existing ecological elements, such as “Sand Dune Clouds." Intended to lessen the man-made impact of an existing roadway, this billowing structure would generate energy from wind as well as pedestrian foot traffic. On the other end of the spectrum were structures designed to stand out from the natural landscape. “Choreographies in the Sky”, a design made up of flying solar devices, interacts with visitors while creating evolving airborne patterns and formations.
In January, the winning design was revealed at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, an annual conference that brings together worldwide leaders in the renewable energy and environment industry. Ferry and Monoian are currently looking for investors to fund the future construction of the winner—along with a portfolio of roughly 75 other saleable models—not only in the UAE but in other urban locales. Their hope is to turn these green power plants into tourist destinations comparable to the Eiffel Tower or Mount Rushmore. “We imagine that they could really broaden the scope of the public’s understanding of renewable energy,” says Monoian.