Founded by husband and wife team, Robert Ferry and Elizabeth Monoian in 2008, Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) provides a platform for artists, architects and other creatives working with engineers and scientists to bring forward human-centered solutions for sustainable energy infrastructures that enhance the city as works of public art while cleanly powering thousands of homes.
The goal of LAGI is to accelerate the transition to post-carbon economies by providing models of renewable energy infrastructure that add value to public space, inspire and educate--while providing equitable power to thousands of homes around the world.
Pretty neat, huh?
I got to speak with Rob and Beth to learn a bit more about their brand. Read the interview below...
1. What was the inspiration behind starting this company?
In 2008 we were witnessing growing resistance to renewable energy installations—the not-in-my-backyard reaction to wind farms and solar arrays—keeping many projects from being implemented. At the same time, the pace of innovation for new technologies and the inherent beauty of projects like solar power towers (which to us seemed like almost unintentional works of art in desert landscapes) fascinated us.
We wanted to challenge people’s assumptions about the visual impact of renewable energy technologies and show the world that renewable energy can be beautiful. We long for a 100% clean energy future and we wanted to do our part as architects and designers to provide positive examples of how these new infrastructures can exist in our cultural centers and cherished landscapes.
2. What is the end goal or mission, big picture?
We want to change the conversation about renewable energy from one that focuses on the gloom and doom of climate change to one that provides an inspiring vision of a world that we all desire to live in. In doing so, we are helping to stimulate wide-spread popular demand for a 100% renewable energy economy.
The way that we do this is by facilitating the design and construction of civic artworks that use renewable energy technology as the primary sculptural media. Land Art Generators are power plants as public art, or power plants where you would want to go for a picnic. These artworks are designed to add value to our cities as a part of creative placemaking strategies while also powering hundreds or even thousands of homes.
Every two years the free and open LAGI international design competition provides an opportunity for creative minds around the world to reflect on the nature of energy infrastructures and what they can aspire to be in their built form. How can they integrate themselves into our cities in ways that enhance public space, educate, and inspire, while catalyzing economic development? So far we have held these biennial events for Dubai/Abu Dhabi, New York City, Copenhagen, and Santa Monica, and we are gearing up for our next competition in 2018 (city to be announced soon!). Each competition includes exhibitions, public outreach, workshops, and publications that introduce the amazing design outcomes to the general public.
3. What's been the greatest challenge and success?
The Land Art Generator Initiative is only as strong as our project partners and the creative teams that participate. We have been very fortunate since our first open call international design competition in 2010 to have the support of a wide range of individuals and institutions worldwide, and the participation of thousands of incredible artists and designers from over 60 countries. We now have more than 800 unique designs for culturally and aesthetically relevant clean energy infrastructures designed as artwork for various site typologies including landfills, brownfields, urban gateways, and coastal sites.
As with any startup, it takes time to build a critical mass of awareness about the work that you are doing. This is especially true with projects that do not neatly fit into predefined categories (is it energy infrastructure or is it public art?). While we have been quite fortunate in the support that we have received, it is only now approaching year ten that we are beginning to grow into a financially stable organization. With a newly expanded Board of Directors and some high-profile projects on the boards over the next few years, we are excited about out next stage of development. We are looking forward to the exciting stage of implementation, when land art generators will be constructed in multiple cities and begin to provide real kilowatt-hours to offset carbon energy sources.
4. How do you believe your industry could operate more sustainably?
By “our industry” we will refer to art and design. It is critically important that all artists and designers address the great energy transition in every aspect of their work. Artists can do this by considering deeply the ecological footprint of their art practice—from the materials they use to the transportation miles required to execute their projects. Architects and designers must recognize the impact that their work has on the natural environment (buildings are directly responsible for more than 40% of carbon emissions, and the percentage goes up when you consider the planning implications on transportation and industry).
If we are serious about averting the worst effects of climate change we simply must transition from a paradigm of “less bad” to one of positive impact and regeneration. These principles should become standard practice so that no new building or product can come to market that does not give back more than it takes from its natural resources balance sheet over its life cycle.
This shift will require public policy changes and public sector investment. All too often, good intentions on the part of owners and developers at the start of a project get overshadowed by bottom line considerations at the end of the design process that do not take into account the social and environmental cost of carbon. Regulations that require natural capital accounting, reduce externalities, and incentivize regeneration (buildings and public places that generate energy and water in excess of what they use) will be required if we are serious about limiting impacts of climate change.
5. Any other fun facts or interesting info!?
In addition to our big open call design competition that we hold every two years for a new city, LAGI is working on really interesting projects around the world including:
Wind Forest is the winning entry of this invited competition for the City of Glasgow Scotland. The artwork by Dalziel + Scullion, Qmulus Ltd, Yeadon Space Agency, and ZM Architecture will be installed as a key component of a new development overlooking the city center, providing electricity to meet the needs of 300 homes while bringing people from far and wide to experience the beautiful and engaging installation.
The Land Art Generator Initiative, Olorgesailie Maasai Women Artisans (OMWA), and Idia’Dega partnership is bringing aesthetically and culturally relevant renewable energy infrastructure to the Maasai community in Olorgesailie Kenya. The Maasai women who have been working closely with Idia’Dega have taken the lead in designing creative installations that have the added benefit of generating clean and renewable energy for their community.
Community Energy Workshops around the USA
LAGI works directly with communities to assess interest, needs, and develop design ideas for integrating renewable energy or other sustainable infrastructure into neighborhoods. The workshops provide an opportunity for citizens of all ages to re-think their relationship to renewable energy technologies.
The Land Art Generator Initiative is providing project-based learning through its Art+Energy Camps. The Camps provide participating youth with critical skills in STEAM subjects by implementing the design/engineering process for innovative solutions (and built outcomes) that provide sustainable energy to communities.
Learn even more about LAGI by heading to www.landartgenerator.org!