Since the first exhibition of LAGI in 2009, which introduced the concept of artwork powering cities, and the early educational content we began to create that year in preparation for the 2010 launch of our first (what was to become biennial) open call ideas competition, the vision of the land art generator initiative has been to provide a glimpse onto a world powered by renewable energy that is also rich with visual beauty and wonder—where the very machines that can bring our climate back into balance have cultural relevance in their formal expression and add wonder to our joyfully sustainable lives.

With the help of thousands of creative individuals working across disciplines and submitting proposals to our 2010, 2012, 2014, and soon 2016 design competitions, the LAGI project has planted a seed that is starting to really grow.

Over the past few years we have expanded our educational content and outreach, first with our Field Guide to Renewable Energy Technologies, workshops for all ages, and our Art+Energy Flash Cards, and continuing this past year with the introduction of our Youth Design Prize and our Art+Energy Camp.

What is really exciting to us now is that all of these projects are coming together as a comprehensive program for cities around the world. We’re now in a position where we are able to call back participating teams in previous LAGI design competitions and bring them in on site-specific commissions and invited design competitions. From the start of the project the mission has been to construct as many of the the land art generator ideas as possible and make the beauty of our renewable future a reality today. The recent award of the J.M.K. Innovation Prize comes to LAGI at the perfect time, when we are starting to implement designs and consult with cities and communities on site-specific solutions to energy opportunities.

We believe that there is no better tool for creating a tipping point to strong climate action and 100% renewable energy infrastructure than to present a positive vision to the public of what that could look like and the residual benefits that such policies would bring to cities. The opportunity to bring new energy technologies into city planning and creative placemaking projects is at the heart of LAGI. As a part of the design and implementation of constructed works, LAGI educational programming provides the perfect platform for extensive community engagement and participatory design processes, leading to infrastructures that benefit the greatest number of people. LAGI Glasgow is proving to be the perfect example of this ideal delivery model.

In early 2013, we received an email from Chris Fremantle, producer, researcher, and founder of ecoartscotland. Following on conversations he had as a part of Creative Carbon Scotland’s Green Teas(e) — part of the European Green Arts Lab Alliance project, Chris wanted to know what it would take to bring LAGI to Scotland in 2015. From the start he was interested in customizing the planning of LAGI Glasgow to reflect the complexities of the debate around renewables and their relationship to key environments in Scotland. The success of renewable energy implementation there since the early 2000′s has figured heavily into land use and conservation discussions and has been extremely relevant to the independence debate.

We soon learned that Glasgow was celebrating its year of Green in 2015, and that there were a number of regeneration projects in the early stages of planning into which the creative integration of renewable energy infrastructure would be a welcome addition. By collaborating with a regeneration consortium on the design brief, LAGI Glasgow could help to inform the planning strategy itself.

With the support of the Glasgow City Council and Scottish Canals, the regeneration site at Port Dundas was identified as the preferred focus area for LAGI Glasgow. Our project partners immediately saw the benefit of using cultural approach to the renewable energy plan to inform the regeneration planning process. With a mandate to deliver a very pragmatic and constructable concept design outcome, we decided on a new competition model that could best leverage local and international expertise, while laying a strong groundwork for implementation.

The LAGI Glasgow project is undertaking research and development to better determine the role of innovative site specific renewable energy infrastructure in 21st century city planning. Community engagement will inform the concept development and seek to address issues of social justice and energy democracy. Primary and secondary school students around Glasgow are participating in the LAGI Youth Design Prize and we’d like to hold an Art+Energy Camp along with a youth ambassador program for 2016 that will provide young Glaswegians the opportunity to learn from the design team directly. Integration of these programs into the design process for Port Dundas is a key component of the overall strategy. Together the LAGI Glasgow project partners hope to set an example for cities around the world to follow, combining creative energy planning and STE(A)M education.

New interdisciplinary teams have been formed, comprising Glasgow-based and overseas expertise. The overseas expertise with extensive knowledge of mainstream and emerging renewables technologies have been drawn from previous teams whose proposals have been shortlisted in LAGI design competitions over the past three cycles (2010 United Arab Emirates, 2012 New York City, and 2014 Copenhagen). Glasgow-based expertise brings an understanding of recent innovative and creative practice, local knowledge and capacity.

We’re thrilled by the reception of the LAGI idea in Scotland and by the vision conveyed to us by Glaswegians of their future city. Representatives such as Bailie Elizabeth Cameron are providing us with new perspectives on the relevance of the project and inspiring us with their passion and commitment to sustainable development models that put people at heart of every decision. People make Glasgow, and Glasgow is re-making the land art generator initiative.

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The Land Art Generator Initiative has been awarded the
J.M.K. Innovation Prize, a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund

“Launched in early 2015, The J.M.K. Innovation Prize was designed to seek out boldly promising ideas in the field of social-sector innovation—however untested or wherever they arise.”

We are very fortunate to be one of the ten awardees. We’d like to extend our thanks to, and share this recognition with, the thousands of participants in LAGI design competitions, whose amazing innovations make LAGI possible. The above image is composed of thumbnails of the work that can be seen in the online LAGI portfolio.

The J.M.K. Innovation Prize will allow LAGI to expand consulting and project management work in cities around the world that are seeking creative ways of integrating sustainable infrastructures into regenerative planning and projects.

Over the next few years, LAGI will be working closely with our design partners (past LAGI design competition participants) on the detailed design and construction of many regenerative public art installations at various scales and site contexts.

The Prize will also help to support the 2016 LAGI Design Competition for Southern California. LAGI 2016 is re-imagining the coast of Santa Monica by inviting individuals and interdisciplinary teams to design a large-scale, site-specific work of public art that also serves as clean energy and/or drinking water infrastructure for the City of Santa Monica.

The Importance of LAGI

We’re helping to educate the next generation of artists, architects, engineers, city planners, landscape architects, designers, and scientists, who will find greater innovation through interdisciplinary collaboration and creativity. The LAGI design challenge provides project-based learning in STEM subjects through engagement with art and creativity.

As we work together to design and implement a post-carbon world, the impact of sustainable infrastructures on the constructed environment is becoming an important focus of city planning and architecture. At the same time, a culture war over land use has slowed the implementation of many proposed wind and solar installations.

By engaging communities with an inspiring vision of our sustainable future and providing context-specific solutions for sensitive sites, we would like to help turn the tide of public discourse and bring about universal support for immediate investment in 100% renewable infrastructure.

The J.M.K. Innovation Prize process of selection was its own innovation in philanthropic award management (as a project that designs and runs competitions, it’s a subject that LAGI is interested in!). 373 volunteer reviewers were recruited from the Fund’s network to review 1,138 applications from 45 states as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Each application was scored by at least 6 reviewers, after which 202 entries were advanced to the second round. More complete applications were read by subject matter and social innovation experts in disciplines including justice, education, human rights, food systems, public health, energy, natural resources, and the arts.

We congratulate the J.M. Kaplan Fund on their development of the J.M.K. Innovation Prize and thank them for their generous support.

LAGI will be at the Living Product Expo September 17 & 18 (2015) at the Pittsburgh Convention Center.

The LAGI founding co-directors will be speaking at the event from 5:45–6:00 pm on Thursday the 18th.

The WindNest 1/4 scale prototype will be displayed along with several past LAGI submissions, showing the world that renewable energy can be beautiful.

About the WindNest Prototype
WindNest is designed by Trevor Lee of Suprafutures to passively rotate to face the wind just like a weather vane. To test the functionality and to experiment with the ball bearing mechanism design, a prototyping team under the direction of GTK Flow Analysis fabricated this 1/4 scale model and subjected it to a series of tests under different wind conditions and speed sequences.

The full-scale installation will incorporate a slip ring to allow for continuous rotation while conducting the electricity produced by the turbines and solar fabric.

The prototype also provides the opportunity to experiment with the structure of the cloud pods and will assist with the design of the fabric skin.

WindNest prototype being installed at the Living Product Expo from Land Art Generator Initiative on Vimeo.

About the Living Product Expo
In early April, 2015, the Living Future Institute launched the Living Product Challenge. This new program re-imagines the design and construction of products to function as elegantly and efficiently as anything found in the natural world. The Living Product Expo is a groundbreaking new event that will bring together leading minds in the product industry and ignite a revolution in the way materials are designed, manufactured and delivered. Sustainability directors from the world’s leading design firms, prominent manufacturers and sustainability consultants will gather to learn about game-changing innovations in product design.

The Expo will assemble a diverse group of people, industries and disciplines. Together, we will engage in a transparent, transdisciplinary and transformative dialogue to inspire the creation of the world’s first Living Products. Participants will gain new tools, knowledge and connections to effect positive change in their organizations and supply chains.

The Living Product Expo is the world’s leading place for design and manufacturing professionals to learn about game-changing products that will transform the marketplace. It will be a unique opportunity for manufacturers and designers (of all sizes) to network, learn from one another and aggregate market power to create transformative impact. Attendees will experience a stimulating agenda of education tracks, inspiring keynote presentations, tours, networking and Show + Tell product demonstrations showcasing the latest trends in sustainable products.

For the past six weeks we have had the great fortune of spending every weekday with 20 of the most brilliant kids in Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood. Yesterday, we all celebrated the final outcome of the Camp—Renaissance Gate, Pittsburgh’s newest work of public art and a 4.1 kWp solar energy installation on Frankstown Avenue.

The artwork helps to power to Homewood Renaissance Association’s new community center next door and provides passersby with a place where they can charge their cellphone during the day while catching some shade under the armatures of the installation.

The form of the artwork was inspired by the shape of the violet flower and by the way that the existing unused marquee at the site resembled a kind of gateway. The campers were already familiar with the concept of the Torii Gates of Japan, which symbolize a spiritual passage or journey. Renaissance Gate, the kids decided, would be a passageway to a new Homewood—a community of hope and progress, or what Free Blackwell, the Executive Director of Homewood Renaissance Association likes to call, “the most livable neighborhood in the most livable city.”

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto imparted even more meaning to the title of the artwork when he spoke at the August 13th opening ceremony just before cutting the red ribbon. He reminded us that the original renaissance in Europe marked a turning point from a period of fear and violence to a period of progress and hope in the future. It was the marriage of the arts and sciences that made Europe’s renaissance possible. The Art + Energy Summer Camp is an expression of the power of that combination and the importance of STEM to STEAM initiatives in education.

Over the course of the six week Camp the participants, ages 8–17, learned about energy science, art, and design.

Week one consisted of field trips to understand the existing landscape of energy production and consumption in Western Pennsylvania. We visited the Bruce Mansfield coal-fired power plant and the Beaver Valley nuclear power plant. We spent a day at Eden Hall, Chatham University’s sustainability campus where we saw a large solar installation at work and learned about solar thermal heat, aquaculture, and on-site wastewater treatment with engineered wetlands.

We visited Conservation Consultants Inc.’s building, one of Pittsburgh’s first green buildings, to learn about energy efficiency and to see their rooftop solar installations. We visited the new Energy Innovation Center to see their ice storage system and other advanced green building technologies. Other field trips included a visit to a local residential solar installation (thanks Fred Kraybill), and Construction Junction and Creative Reuse, where we learned about how to reduce waste streams and divert used goods and products from landfills.

Fun activities expanded vocabulary and engaged campers in the use of energy conversion efficiency and capacity factor to estimate the average annual output of energy installations.

Weeks two through five continued the lessons on art outside the gallery and the steps of the design process. At the same time the campers began to come up with their artistic concept and sketch the form of what would become the Renaissance Gate.

Some worked with paper and dowels on a 1” = 1’-0” scale model of the existing marquee. Others free-form designed with clay, while some of the older kids manipulated the solar panels in Google Sketchup.

A visit from David Edwards, a local artist and inventor, stimulated our imaginations with the endless possibilities of incorporating solar and wind power into artwork.

By the end of week three it was time to meet up with Tim Gerhart, the structural engineer, and Fred Underwood, the solar installer. Their input was invaluable as we worked together on the final design drawings.

During weeks four and five we were in full-swing with the fabrication and installation! VB Fabricators was able to deliver the finished structural steel armatures in a very short amount of time, and by the start of week six Underwood Solar was installing the solar panels and getting everything wired up. The campers really enjoyed being a part of the installation process, from framing up the panels to the aluminum rails, prepping the colorful panels, and even helping to dig the hole in the ground to examine the existing foundation (Imani and Terrell both found this to be their favorite part!).

We finished up just in time for the ribbon-cutting event with Mayor Peduto. We’re so glad that he was able to take the time out of his busy schedule to attend and speak on the importance of renewable energy and energy justice for communities like Homewood. Daniel Moore with the Pittsburgh Post Gazette wrote a great article that captures the energy of that wonderful day.

A highlight of the day’s festivities was a live performance of “Solar Energy” an original rap by Jordan Blackwell and DaVontae Garner. You’ll definitely want to give it a listen in the player below. It is a brilliant anthem for energy justice.

The kids have been a driving part of the entire process. They have helped with documentation, social media, design, and meetings with consultants. When challenges presented themselves, the campers were there helping us to brainstorm solutions. The outcome for them goes beyond this particular solar artwork. In a sense, we have graduated project managers. It’s our hope that they’ll be able to apply this experience in all walks of life.

And we hope that the Renaissance Gate will be cherished by the community as a symbol of what can be accomplished when we all work together towards a brighter future. As Mya Lane put it, “I feel the Renaissance Gate should inspire the community that in Homewood you don’t always have to use violence—and it’s a very nice community and it should be represented as one. The Renaissance Gate should stand for peace, non-violence, truth, justice. It should bring us and make us realize that we are all the same and one big family.”

We’re so grateful to our funders who made this project possible: Heinz Endowments, Google Community Grants, and Three Rivers Community Foundation.

Art + Energy Camp is a collaboration between the Land Art Generator Initiative (Elizabeth Monoian and Robert Ferry), Homewood Renaissance Association (Free Blackwell, Executive Director, and Rodney Heard, Camp Teacher), and Conservation Consultants Inc.(Indigo Raffel).

Thanks to all of our camp participants: Jordan Blackwell, Canaan Blackwell, Adrian Nanji, Ewane Nanji, Thomas Bowens, Mya Lane, Sarai Robinson, Emani Jones, Elizabeth Blackwell, Jordan Woods, DaVontae Garner, Terrell Williams, Lamonte Farrish, Cameron Jennings, Madison Wilson, Erin Shealy, Caleb Williams, Imani Nanji, Elisha Blackwell, Jasmine Berry, with teachers Rodney Heard, Indigo Raffel, Robert Ferry, and Elizabeth Monoian.

For more photos and information, please visit

Understanding this research coming out of Columbia University, might make your mind explode. The implications of this are potentially far-reaching, but the research is still in an early stage and just beginning to get public attention. It doesn’t even have a name really yet. How about “evaportricity”?

Wherever there is water there is evaporation. It happens all the time, sun up and sun down. It is a manifestation of the molecular energy that exists in all water above absolute zero. Until now, the power of this natural phenomenon has never been converted into other forms of energy. This new research is showing us that evaporation energy can be successfully converted to kinetic energy (and then into electrical energy) and that the technology can be scaled.

From Nanowerk News:

When evaporation energy is scaled up, the researchers predict, it could one day produce electricity from giant floating power generators that sit on bays or reservoirs, or from huge rotating machines akin to wind turbines that sit above water, said Ozgur Sahin, Ph.D., an associate professor of biological sciences and physics at Columbia University and the paper’s lead author.

“Evaporation is a fundamental force of nature,” Sahin said. “It’s everywhere, and it’s more powerful than other forces like wind and waves.”

As a side benefit to this new technology, wherever it is installed (ideally on the surface of a body of water) it keeps water in a closed loop without releasing it to the air. In other words, this technology could be installed on top of water reservoirs to generate electricity while also conserving water. They are still a long way from commercializing this, and they will need to move beyond the use of spores, but still it is impressive.

Who can imagine what these evaportricity infrastructures will look like when they are scaled up to power our cities?!

In Tehachapi California a new experiment in wind power is being tested. GE is applying a large dome at the rotor hub of three-blade horizontal axis wind turbines. The 60 ft. diameter space frame attachment channels the wind to the perimeter of the rotor where it produces more power.

The 20,000 lb structure can help to increase the power output of existing turbines by around 3%, which has the potential to bring the cost of wind power down significantly below its already low cost. Interestingly, it could also impact the form of future blades, allowing them to be designed for greater output without increasing the overall diameter of the rotor. This is important because the size of wind turbines has increased to the point where it is already very difficult to transport the blades to installation sites.

The ecoROTR is in some way like the Compact Acceleration Wind Turbine (CWAT) experiments that channel the wind to the blades from the perimeter of the rotor, but instead it is working at the center, which potentially means less material cost. The added material cost of the CWAT rings has made it difficult for them to compete in the marketplace.

Of course LAGI is in favor of the compact acceleration idea being applied to public art applications and many past LAGI submissions have incorporated some variation of it.

We’re really excited about this advancement. It’s not every day that there is such a dramatic shift in the form of wind turbine design. If the ecoROTR experiment proves successful it could have a reverberating impact on the design of our energy landscapes. As these new rotor hubs are added on and as blades take new shapes, future wind turbines may look very different than current models. The elegantly thin profile of today’s turbines are nice, but perhaps there are opportunities here for creativity?

We modified the image below just ever so slightly to get a feel for what might be possible for the turbine proboscis of the future!

via This Captain America-Style Shield Makes Wind Turbines More Powerful

Airway by Artist Vicki Scuri
Image from Forecast Public Art © Vicki Scuri

We were awed yesterday on our way through El Paso, Texas yesterday when we drove through this dynamic piece that frames the I-10 corridor near the airport. It was that perfect time of day when the lighting was set off against a deep blue sky. The vertical axis wind turbines with overlapping blades in perspective provides a complicated visual moiré effect that reveals its secret as you pass through the installation.

Airway by Artist Vicki Scuri
Image from Forecast Public Art © Vicki Scuri

It is very likely that this artwork generates more electricity than it requires to light itself, although that is not a figure that is cited in the articles that we could find online about the piece.

The artist, Vicki Scuri, says that she was inspired by aeronautical forms and by the shape of desert plants.

Below is our guess regarding the desert plant she’s referring to. It is ubiquitous in that part of the southwest and it’s really beautiful.

Flowering Soaptree Yucca (Yucca Elata)

Other articles with more information about the artwork:
nice video at the bottom

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.

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