On November 9th, the Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) landed at Forecast Public Art. This exciting program, which seeks to combine energy traditions of yesteryear and creative clean energy ideas of today, inspired the room of approximately 30 artists, city staffers, designers, and engineers to think about how collaborations of artists, engineers, and architects can bring cleaner, more local, energy back to our cities.

In today’s world, powerplants typically serve one practical purpose: to provide energy in a cost effective manner. Many of them are located far from where the energy is used, are generally unslightly, and most people have no connection to energy generation. But it was not always that way. At the turn of the last century, powerplants were found in urban cores, since energy couldn’t be transmitted very far, and because of their central location, they took on architecture styles consistent with those of surrounding buildings of the time.

Robert Ferry and Elizabeth Monoian, who had looked at this issue, then asked, why can’t we bring attractive energy generation back to cities and engage residents with the energy generation in the process? Their answer was the Land Art Generator Initiative, which strives to bring back the idea of aesthetically-pleasing urban powerplant public art with a modern, clean energy twist. Its focus is a clean energy public art design competition inviting teams artists, architects, and engineers to create concept designs of feasible energy-producing public art.

LAGI’s humble beginnings in 2010 as a clean energy public art design competition for a space near Dubai, UAE, exploded almost immediately after the design submissions came in with support coming from big players such as Masdar and World Future Energy Summit. Since then, LAGI has held design competitions in Copenhagen, New York, and next in Santa Monica. The choice of each location has sought to capitalize on the variety of wind, solar, water, geothermal, and land form resources so as to broaden the possibilities and replicability of designs in the diverse cities throughout the world. LAGI is also focused on education:

  • educating artists and architects on the numerous renewable energy technologies available,
  • teaching engineers about the creative opportunities for renewable technologies,
  • expanding cities’ knowledge of clean energy and public art possibilities,
  • and training young people on the design process using clean energy public art projects.

Here in Minnesota, our current energy generation is mostly far away, out of sight, and un-engaging, but that is slowly changing. Shiloh Temple in North Minneapolis is paving the way for a community solar garden (CSG) on their roof, and the Creative City Challenge is engaging residents in public art at the Minneapolis Convention Center. What if such project ideas were combined?

Participants of the LAGI presentation were asking questions just like that. Energy engineers and advocates are increasingly seeing the need to engage the public in energy issues, and what better way to talk to the masses than through public art? Not only that, artists are often looking for their designs to communicate important issues, and energy of course is a prime subject. Going forward, the artists, city staffers, designers, and engineers will now think bigger and perhaps more collaboratively about what is possible in realizing our clean energy and creative city goals.

View the entire presentation