Image: Copyright Vortex Bladeless

Vortex Bladeless wind power is making big waves this week with articles in Wired and The Verge. Check out those articles for more information about the technology and some insightful comments from the Vortex team.

We’ve been following Vortex for some time with the hopes that 1. the full scale installations will be wildly successful, and 2. they will inspire creative applications of wind energy installations that can be placemaking contributions. Who wouldn’t want to hang out in a park with these simple and elegant objects?

Photo: Copyright Dia Art Foundation, New York

We also think it’s interesting to compare the formal expression of a field of these Vortex Bladeless installations to that of The Lightning Field, 1977. Walter De Maria’s sublime land art work is the kind of art that inspired us to conceive of the Land Art Generator Initiative in 2008. The piece in the high desert of western New Mexico incorporates 400 polished stainless steel poles in a grid array measuring one mile by one kilometer. It is intended by the artist to be experienced over a long period of time and visits to the site require an overnight stay. While the gesture to the sky from the earth seems in our minds to be a temptation to lightning, we do not need to witness a lightning strike to have a full experience of the artwork.

We’re looking forward to the day that someone catches a photo of lightning striking the Vortex Bladeless array (although that will probably require some repair work).

Vortex Bladeless uses the phenomenon of vorticity to generate vibrations that are converted into electricity.

We are pleased to announce that in addition to our professional design competition in 2016 we will also be holding a special STEAM Prize for students. Get more information at And check back on August 15th to get started!

Thanks to all of our partners and to our wonderful team—experts in public art and education. Together we are getting ready for the August 15, 2015 launch of the complete Youth Design Brief and a complete Toolkit for Educators that will guide students and teachers through the design process from start to finish, and that is aligned with the most up to date educational standards in STEAM subjects.

The Toolkit will contain a series of fun activities like the LAGI Idea Generator Game that will help students design their own land art generator artworks. In addition to this Toolkit, we are available to help you every step of the way.

Please reach out to us with any questions you may have.

Bringing STEAM education to middle school and high school youth seamlessly through the arts is an engaging way to instill an early interest in the scientific method, provide useful technical skills, and introduce systems thinking. Our goal is to build a global community of young people who are inspired and equipped to design the landscape of our clean energy future.

LAGI 2016 STEAM PRIZE Objectives

  • Examine and comprehend interdisciplinary information about public art and energy generation
  • Identify, describe, and analyze the ways in which electricity is generated and consumed
  • Learn about energy conservation
  • Learn about different types of energy generation technologies
  • Apply aesthetic decisions pertaining to color, line, and form in the conceptualization of new machines for energy generation
  • Understand the difference between peak capacity and productive output for different renewable energy technologies
  • Apply capacity factor to determine estimated annual outputs based on nameplate capacity
  • Successfully guide students through the design and engineering process in order to conceptualize an artwork that utilizes renewable energy technologies

Meets these academic practices

  • Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them
  • Model with mathematics
  • Attend to precision
  • Use appropriate tools strategically
  • Integrate the Engineering Design process

Katie Henry is a super star teacher at Brookville Intermediate in Ohio. We have so much admiration and respect for her teaching strategies and we are learning a lot from our collaboration with her during the planning of our LAGI 2016 STEM educational outreach programming. If you want to learn more about cutting-edge educational leadership strategies, please take the time to watch this wonderful interview.

The WindNest team continues to grow and the project keeps getting better as the engineering details are worked out. Schematic design is now complete and the public approval process is underway with the City of Pittsburgh.

Trevor Lee at Suprafutures has done an excellent job of adapting the concept to its new site and the design continues to evolve in response to stakeholder and engineering feedback.

A revised completion date has been established for the Spring of 2016.

Please check back here for updates. We’ll provide a complete list of project partners and a detailed timeline once the project has the green light from the City.

We recently completed the fabrication of the prototype of one of the “nests” at approximately 1/4 scale. Thanks goes to Chris Williams at Steeltown Design for putting it together. We’ll begin testing as soon as the weather breaks in Pittsburgh. The results, along with a desktop computational fluid dynamic model analysis, will inform the next stages of design.

The prototype was built purely to measure performance. Lots of shortcuts in fabrication. Final version will look much more like the renderings and we are engineering the skin to not have the ribbing effect on the fabric.

Thanks to Deborah Hosking for shooting and editing this fun video of us moving the prototype to its winter storage location.

New Energies is the beautiful hardcover book that catalogs the LAGI 2014 design competition for Copenhagen. It is available at many bookstores, and online at such outlets as RIBA and Amazon.

The book contains engaging essays by Annette Skov (“The Glowing Island” A History of Refshaleøen); Laura Watts and Brit Ross Winthereik (“Energy as Alien”); Trine Plambech, Johanne Mose Entwistle, and Liselott Stenfeldt (“The Human Approach to Sustainability”); Peter Karnøe (“Danish Wind Power: A Journey Beyond Imagination” A History from 1893 to the Present); Chris Fremantle (“Working Together”); Else Marie Bukdahl (“Visual Art and the Ecological Challenge: About Some of the First Creators and Their Influence”); Lea Schick and Anne Sophie Witzke (“Generating Futures: LAGI as an Imaginatorium”); and an introduction by Elizabeth Monoian and Robert Ferry, the founding directors of LAGI.

It also illustrates 64 of the incredible proposals for energy-generating public artworks that came in from around the world in response to the LAGI 2014 open call.

The beautiful design is by Paul Schifino (Schifino Design), who also provided the graphic vision for the LAGI 2012 book, Regenerative Infrastructures.

On the Copenhagen harbor, across from the iconic Little Mermaid statue, lies an expanse of open land—a brownfield that is the oldest part of the former Burmeister & Wain shipbuilding yards. It’s the site of the third Land Art Generator Initiative design competition, which brings together creative minds from around the world in a collective effort to challenge our preconceptions of what renewable energy generation looks like. The Land Art Generator Initiative, or LAGI, was created to encourage the design and construction of public art installations that have the added benefit of utility-scale clean energy generation.

Sixty-four of the LAGI Copenhagen competition entries are profiled in this book through detailed spreads that include renderings, illustrations, and diagrams. Seven essays explore the role of creativity in the conception of new energy landscapes and provide insights into sustainable infrastructure innovations in Denmark. New Energies provides a much-needed case study on how we can transform our urban brownfields into aesthetic and functional destinations that power hundreds of homes while providing places for recreation and contemplation within our urban environments.

Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Prestel (November 12, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 3791353691
ISBN-13: 978-3791353692

For LAGI 2014 we invited teams to learn more about the Green Cities municipalities in Denmark. Because Green Cities municipalities do their utmost to maintain, protect, and improve the environment while working towards creating a long-term sustainable local community, the partnership with LAGI was a perfect fit.

Although outside of the context of the competition — and not related to the LAGI 2014 design brief or jury criteria — we invited teams to visit the Green Cities section of the LAGI design competition site, learn more about their initiatives, and possibly even use their content as inspiration for designs that were in addition to submissions for LAGI 2014.

The four municipalities of Albertslund, Allerød, Herning, and Kolding have all expressed interest in working with LAGI & LAGI participants.

See the special call for LAGI Green Cities participation here.

We are very pleased to announce that after receiving unique design ideas from LAGI 2014 participants for the Green Cities, a special jury prize has been announced by the municipalities. On October 23 at the Green Cities Conference Riccardo Mariano was awarded 2000 Euro for his design “Herning Energy Promenade.”

Artists: Riccardo Mariano, Salvatore Maraniello
Artist Location: Berlin, Germany
Energy Technologies: vertical axis wind turbines, Pavegen™ pavers
Annual Capacity: 500 MWh

View the design boards.

About Green Cities

Green Cities is a binding partnership of member municipalities in Denmark intended to provide inspiration for the development of climate and environmental policies. The member municipalities are geographically representative of the entire country and have track records of setting ambitious goals on their own.

The work of Green Cities is founded on the members’ pooled experience, which creates a strong framework for the municipalities’ work within the fields of climate and environment. In fact, Green Cities meets a specific need: at regular intervals the municipalities of Denmark hit an impenetrable wall of regulations and economic barriers. This effectively prevents the individual local authorities from realizing their sustainability goals on their own. Because citizens have high expectations for climate and environmental policy from their municipalities, Green Cities assists in working through these barriers to achieve real outcomes, and helps to advance political debate with regard to opportunities at the municipal level.

The Green Cities Partnership is built on six common themes and a series of exacting goals, towards the achievement of which member municipalities are obliged to work. The Green Cities Partnership is based on a partnership agreement, which was approved in 2012. The six common themes are: Climate, Groundwater, Organic Food, Natural Environment, Traffic, and Waste.

Read more about the common themes and goals on the Green Cities website.

LAGI is delighted to continue our partnership with the Green Cities in Denmark!

While in Glasgow this week we had the pleasure of meeting Stephen Hurrel, a contemporary visual artist who works across all kinds of media and exploring a wide range of scientific collaborations, from marine ecology to seismic activity. His work is exquisite and we recommend checking out his newly redesigned website:

In 2003, Stephen created The Sound of the Wind Looks Like This. The light-based installation reacts directly to wind speed and wind direction, and is powered by the wind.

Thank you to everyone who came out to the LAGI 2014 award ceremony at the Design Society to see the opening of the exhibition and the awards ceremony. For those of you who were unable to make it, below are some photos from the night. The exhibition will be up until November 7 so for those of you who plan to be in Copenhagen between now and then, please stop by. The Danish Design Centre is a wonderful place to visit, just across from Tivoli Garden. Thanks goes out to Maria, Birte, Kamilla, Morton, and Bobby and everyone at the Danish Design Centre for helping to make the event and the exhibition possible.

The three winning teams with Connie Hedegaard, EU Commissioner of Climate Action, who gave an inspiring talk on climate change and handed the awards to the winners that night. From left to right: Antonio Maccà (Third Place Winner with eMotions), Mateusz Góra and Agata Gryszkiewicz (Second Place Winning Team with Quiver), Connie Hedegaard, and Santiago Muros Cortés (First Place Winner with The Solar Hourglass).

From left to right: Trine Plambech (Alexandra Institute), Lea Schick (IT University), and Natalie Mossin (Partner at Smith Innovation and Head of the Danish Architects’ Association).

The Supercloud Team!

Marilu Valente, designer of Aetherius.

Thanks to our Media Partner, Shawati’ Magazine!

Connie Hedegaard with Santiago Muros Cortés, the designer of The Solar Hourglass (First Place Winner of LAGI 2014)

Thanks to Deborah Hosking for all of the amazing video work that is on display at the Exhibit, and for taking many of the photos in this blog post!

A big thanks to CPH Steel for fabricating the steel frames for the exhibition! They turned out more beautiful than we could have imagined and match our sketches exactly.

And a huge thank you to Vester Kopi who printed all of the boards for the exhibit. They do really great work!

The beginning of the setup. Thanks to Gry Lund, LAGI 2014 project manager for helping to coordinate many of the details on the ground in Copenhagen.

“An hourglass to remind us…that as long as we take care of our environment, the energy will never run out.”
-Santiago Muros Cortés

The Solar Hourglass
First Place winner to the 2014 Land Art Generator Initiative Copenhagen design competition

Artist: Santiago Muros Cortés
Artist Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Energy Technologies: concentrated solar power (thermal beam-down tower with heliostats)
See bottom of this post for more information about the MASDAR precedent for this technology.
Annual Capacity: 6,000 MWh

View Design Boards

Rather than using sand to measure time, the Solar Hourglass uses the power of the sun to electrify hundreds of homes while providing a breathtaking setting for inspiration and relaxation. The installation consists of an upper and a lower bulb. Dozens of people can gather on the bottom bulb during the day, sheltered by the shade of the top bulb.

The project works as a solar central receiver, consisting of an arrangement of small flat mirrors that concentrate their reflection of solar energy on a tank holding a heating medium. Sun-tracking mirrors (heliostats) on top of the upper bulb reflect solar heat onto a cone-shaped set of smaller mirrors that concentrate these reflections and direct them down the neck of the installation.

The concentrated beam of solar heat then reaches a receiver containing heat transfer fluid (HTF) of molten nitrate salt, which is heated to temperatures over 600°C. The HTF is conveyed through a heat exchanger where water is turned into steam to run a turbine generator. A small percentage of the steam produced is released back into the neck of the hourglass, thus making the solar beam visible to the public.

The higher heat capacity of the molten salt allows for the system to store heat and produce energy during cloudy weather or even at night.

All the energy production and transformation components are hidden inside the bottom bulb and inaccessible to the general public, making it safe for public engagement.

At night, the beam turns off, and the thin layer of OLED (organic light-emitting diode) that covers the installation, lights up on the surface of both bulbs, transforming the hourglass into a pair of elegantly curved planes that shine on the edge of Refshaleøen.

The Solar Hourglass reminds us that energy is just as precious and fleeting as time, and thus we should take care of it, appreciate it, and not waste it. The project aims to send an optimistic message to those who visit: we still have time to make things right with the environment, and if we act now, it is not yet too late.

More about the technology: The solar thermal beam-down tower technology has been prototyped and tested by Masdar in Abu Dhabi.

It’s an advancement in concentrated solar power (CSP) tower technology, which collects the sun’s energy over a wide surface area and focuses it onto a single point by using sun-tracking mirrors. In conventional CSP towers, the collector is located at the top of the tower. Water is pumped up and through the collector to generate steam. In beam-down towers, the sunlight is reflected twice, once at the ground and again at the top of the tower. This allows the collector to be located at ground level, which does not require the water to be pumped and has the potential to provide a more efficient overall system. This PopSci article has a good overview of the installation at Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, and if you’re really interested in getting into the details, you can read Marwan Mokhtar and his colleagues’ paper on the performance of the system, which is published online at MIT.

What Santiago Muros Cortés has done with this latest CSP technology by incorporating it into such an elegant formal expression and symbol for our times is a kind of three-dimensional poetry. We hope that we can help to make his vision into a reality.

Note: This article was edited on October 13 to make some corrections to the energy calculation. Thanks to a friend at ABB for pointing out some inaccuracies in the figures previously stated. For those who are interested, please find below a summary of revised assumptions.

1. 50 m diameter area of heliostats = 1,963 square meters of surface area

2. maximum irradiance per square meter is 1,366 watts (0.001366 MW) = 2.682 MW of potential power falling within the area (0.001366 x 1,963)

3. 85% of the maximum irradiance can be expected at the site, which takes the power to 2.28 MW of potential power. This can be considered the peak or nameplate capacity of the installation (2.28 MWp)

4. A capacity factor of 32% has been presented as an assumption (in Denmark this could be an optimistic number and please see #6 below).

5. Running the estimate for a typical year is as follows: 2.28MWp x 365 days x 24 hours x 0.32 capacity factor = 6,391 MWh per year

6. The original estimate for the artwork’s annual capacity was slightly overestimated at 7,500 MWh. We have revised this number to 6,000 MWh (rounding down from 6,391 MWh). In the original article there was also the misstatement that the capacity was 6.2 MWp rather than 2.28 MWp. Additionally, imperfections in the mirrors, efficiency of the turbine, and other factors would also certainly affect the overall performance of the system, but we do not have the information needed at the concept level of design to incorporate these factors. As this is a concept proposal and the dimensional details are all subject to change, we appreciate your indulgence in the imperfection of the estimate of annual output. This applies to all LAGI design competition proposals.

7. The Land Art Generator Initiative does its best to check the accuracy of stated output numbers. It is important to note that the estimated output is just one of many criteria that are used by the jury when selecting the winning design. The complete list is as follows:

  • Adherence to the Design Guidelines and Submission Requirements;
  • The integration of the work into the surrounding environment and landscape;
  • The sensitivity of the work to the environment, and to local, and regional ecosystems;
  • The estimated amount of clean energy that can be produced by the work;
  • The way in which the work engages the public;
  • The embodied energy required to construct the work;
  • The perceived return on capital investment of the work;
  • Consideration of additional sustainable infrastructural benefits of the work besides energy production;
  • The originality and social relevance of the concept.


2nd Place Winner to the 2014 Land Art Generator Initiative Copenhagen design competition

Artist Team: Mateusz Góra, Agata Gryszkiewicz
Artist Location: Warsaw, Poland
Energy Technologies: biofuel, aeroelastic flutter (Windbelt™)
Annual Capacity: 550 MWh (223 MWh bio, 327 MWh Windbelt™)

View Design Boards

Quiver has two main elements: the garden and the tower.

The garden is a field of Miscanthus grass-energy crops that grows a maximum of four meters tall and can be harvested twice a year. Changing planting schemes offers diverse functional patterns and spaces for citizens and visitors. The grass grows well in blighted soils, assisting in their remediation over time by accumulating pollutants into its root systems.

At the far end of the park is the tower—a landmark that welcomes boats arriving to the city. The footbridge brings visitors to the top of the installation and to an expansive view of Copenhagen. As the Windbelts™ flutter in the wind, the panorama, while moving towards the top, is in continuous dynamic flux.

During the night, the tower has another active role, calling to mind a lighthouse. LED lighting reflects a visual representation of the current wind conditions in Copenhagen.

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