written by:
January 3, 2011
Originally published in Rethink Recycling

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.

Sand Dune Clouds designed by Town Planning Design and Architecture
“Sand Dune Clouds" Designed by Town Planning Design and Architecture: Boguslaw F. Witkowski, Maciej T. Starewicz, Elmar Hess
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Choreographies in the Sky by Carlos Campos Yamila Zynda Aiub Architects
"Choreographies in the Sky" Designed by Carlos Campos Yamila Zynda Aiub Architects with team members Ignacio Savid, Rafael Lorenzo, and Martin Dellatorre
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Desert Blooms by ETT Architects
Just as if they were living, breathing structures, the “Desert Blooms” in this proposal are flora-inspired, gas-filled balloons (acting as solar concentrator devices) that follow the path of the sun during the day and lay down to rest at night; Visitors would see different alignments of the colorful floating structures depending on the time of day and season. With a total of 51 balloons covering the Desert Blooms site, the design would generate enough energy to power roughly 15,000 homes. Design by: Jude D’Souza, Suprio Bhattacharjee, Vittal Sridharan, and Kush Patel (ETT Architects)
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FERN design by Takuya Onishi
For those in need of some cooling shade from the desert’s beating sun, “FERN” (Future/Energy/Renewable/Nature) provides cover as well as gentle lighting for visitors and existing wildlife. Hovering overhead like giant dragonflies, the FERN structures would collect energy through semi-transparent and flexible solar cell panels, and like Desert Blooms, would change position based on the sun’s movement. At night, when there’s no need for casting shadows below, the structures would position themselves upright, illuminating the sky. Design by: Takuya Onishi
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Solar Organ design by Bread LTD
Renewable energy structure meets futuristic concert venue with the “Solar Organ” design. A thermoacoustic hot air engine would transform solar energy into electricity and sound, which is then emitted out of the glass resonator tubes above. The beauty of this design is that its tonal mechanics can be manipulated, allowing composers and musicians to customize the musical scale to fit their own solar-powered melodies. Design by: Sarat Babu, Andrew Brand, Gianpaolo Fusari, Matt Johnson, and Nick Reddall (Bread LTD)
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Solar ECO System by Antonio Maccà and Flavio Masi
A number of designs paid especially close attention to the ecological as well as cultural context of the United Arab Emirates-based installations. “Solar ECO System,” for example, represents the exact planetary alignment of the solar system on December 2, 1971, the day that the UAE was founded. A different combination of photovoltaic panels would be used to construct each individual planet, which could also be used as pavilions for hosting public activities and events. Design by: Antonio Maccà and Flavio Masi
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Tetras design by Ann Preston and Roger White
One of the more sculptural submissions, “Tetras” is a design inspired by traditional Middle-Eastern tile art. An open-air pavilion and multi-use outdoor plaza would be constructed out of colorful, tetrahedral building blocks, which would harness energy through a combination of transparent, translucent, and opaque solar cells. Design by: Ann Preston and Roger White
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Windstalk by Dario Núñez Ameni and Thomas Siegl
“Windstalk,” which won a second place mention from the jury, is a field of jumbo-sized, reed-like poles that collects kinetic energy from the blowing wind. Whether imagining huge hair follicles or towering blades of grass, the atmosphere will likely make visitors feel like they’re in a scene from “Honey I Shrunk the Kids.” Design by: Dario Núñez Ameni and Thomas Siegl, with Atelier dna
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Hybrid Ecology design
Designed for a site next to the existing Ras al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary in Dubai, “Hybrid Ecology” blends natural and artificial ecological environments. A boardwalk would lead visitors through sea water greenhouses and large plant-like formations that eventually integrate with the real flora nearby. Rather than generate new energy, however, this design is intended to deter exessive energy consumption, proving that small-scale techniques can be used by individuals to create their own energy needs. Design by: Andrew Snow, Ryan Nelson, Houtan Pour-Tavakoli
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Light Sanctuary by Decker Yeadon LLC
Inspired by the concept of a desert mirage, “Light Sanctuary” is a fluid maze-like structure that appears to be hovering above the dry landscape. The 33-foot high, thin-film photovoltaic ribbons that would be used in the design can capture the sun’s rays at an especially wide 140° angle, offering a more efficient use of space than older silicone-based solar panels. Design by: Martina Decker and Peter Yeadon (Decker Yeadon LLC)
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Solar Fractals by Tanzim Hasan Salim
Based on the fractal form known as the Koch Snowflake, these looming structures, or “Solar Fractals,” represent the harmony that exists between art and mathematics. Photovaltic panels collect solar energy during the day, while the pylons illuminate the nearby coastline by night. Design by: Tanzim Hasan Salim
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Winning a third place mention from the jury, “Solaris” represents one of the more pragmatic design entries. Acting as a sort of solar canopy, this renewable energy structure was developed in collaboration with Livermore, California-based solar technology
Winning a third place mention from the jury, “Solaris” represents one of the more pragmatic design entries. Acting as a sort of solar canopy, this renewable energy structure was developed in collaboration with Livermore, California-based solar technology compnay Cool Earth. Unlike the more conceptual submissions, “Solaris” is based on existing technologies, so in theory, it’s ready to be built and generate enough energy to power the country of Chad per year. Design by: Hadrian Predock, John Frane, Chris Schoeneck, Johanna Beuscher, and Heinrich Huber (Predock Frane Architects)
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Sand Dune Clouds designed by Town Planning Design and Architecture
“Sand Dune Clouds" Designed by Town Planning Design and Architecture: Boguslaw F. Witkowski, Maciej T. Starewicz, Elmar Hess

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.

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