renewable energy, LAGI, LAGI Willimantic, Connecticut, solar, public art, design competition, winning LAGI Willimantic design, connecticut, willimantic whitewater partnership, Rio Iluminado
Rio Iluminado by Pirie Associates, Lindsay Suter, and Gar Waterman.

 

The winning team of the most recent LAGI design competition was presented with their award today at Connecticut Arts Day. The artwork, called Rio Iluminado, has won the design commission and the team will now further develop their solar-powered sculpture for implementation on the waterfront of downtown Willimantic.

The Rio Iluminado team comprised of Pirie Associates Architects, architect Lindsay Suter and sculptor Gar Waterman designed the public art piece capable of generating 25.5 MWh of clean energy annually for a 3.4-acre remediated brownfield site owned by the Willimantic Whitewater Partnership (WWP).

“Rio Iluminado cleverly addresses how to bring the river closer to the community—and vice-versa,” says WWP President James Turner. “We are thrilled to have a project design that will result in such an intricately conceived and strikingly executed work of art for the community to enjoy and be inspired by for years to come.”

The Land Art Generator worked with WWP in partnership with the Institute for Sustainable Energy (ISE) at Eastern Connecticut State University, and the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) Office of the Arts — with input from Willimantic community members— to stage the design competition for a power-producing centerpiece at a new whitewater park along the Willimantic River.

A glimmering arch covered in a 900 sq. ft. solar array, Rio Iluminado will use the sun to generate energy and mark the passage of the seasons, the rhythm of the day and the movement of river-related species — all while reinforcing the community’s connection to the river.

renewable energy, LAGI, LAGI Willimantic, Connecticut, solar, public art, design competition, winning LAGI Willimantic design, connecticut, willimantic whitewater partnership, Rio Iluminado
Rio Iluminado by Pirie Associates, Lindsay Suter, and Gar Waterman.

 

Laura Pirie, principal of Pirie Associates Architects, says their firm works to partner with people who understand the power of creating on purpose. “Willimantic, as a community in its postindustrial reckoning, struggled to identify itself and its future,” she says. “The LAGI program really resonated with us, from a community purpose-making point of view.”

For Phase II of the project, the winning team will undertake a detailed design stage to develop Rio Iluminado for production. This will include providing detailed drawings for fabrication and installation, a quantity survey and cost estimate, production and installation schedules, along with an appropriate prototyping, test and commissioning plan.

Phase III, which is expected to cost between $250,000 and $500,000, will see the fabrication, instruction and production of the artwork.

“You’re creating a sense of space, you’re a creating this physical space that makes people feel further connected, and then you’re putting energy back on the grid,” says Kristina Newman-Scott, Director of Culture in the Office of the Arts & Historic Preservation, with the State of Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD).

renewable energy, LAGI, LAGI Willimantic, Connecticut, solar, public art, design competition, winning LAGI Willimantic design, connecticut, willimantic whitewater partnership, Rio Iluminado
Rio Iluminado by Pirie Associates, Lindsay Suter, and Gar Waterman.

 

Willimantic’s riverfront multi-use recreational site is expected to catalyze socioeconomic development for post- industrial Windham, into which the former city has been reincorporated. Energy Technical Specialist Jessica LeClair says ISE sees the project as a possible model that can be shared across the state.

Jim Bellano, the Town of Windham Director for Economic Development, says LAGI Willimantic is consistent with the Town’s Plan of Conservation and Development.

“From an economic development perspective,” he says, “the project is in concert with the Town’s efforts for promoting recreation and tourism; enhancing the Town’s quality of life; and fostering downtown Main Street revitalization.”

Consistent with their motto that Renewable Energy Can Be Beautiful, LAGI design competitions emphasize the cultural, educational, interactive, and playful value of public artworks that also contribute to global climate health.

renewable energy, LAGI, LAGI Willimantic, Connecticut, solar, public art, design competition, winning LAGI Willimantic design, connecticut, willimantic whitewater partnership, Rio Iluminado
Rio Iluminado by Pirie Associates, Lindsay Suter, and Gar Waterman.

 

Co-founders Elizabeth Monoian and Robert Ferry say, “Rio Iluminado was chosen by the selection committee as the winner because the design emerged out of a thoughtful community engagement process and reflects (both literally and figuratively) the hopes and aspirations of the people of Willimantic for this new place with a timeless and elegant regenerative sculpture.”

Turner says the community appreciated elements of all three designs. Eddy Line, a 35-foot vertical solar-powered sculpture designed by architects Höweler + Yoon and Gray Organischi, along with Push Studio and Nspiregreen, would have been capable of producing 94 MWh of clean energy each year. Solar Boombox, a solar-powered repurposed shipping container that plays music, has capacity to produce 6.7 MWh of clean power annually. That team includes landscape architects Claudia Dinep and Kristin Schwab, artist Ted Efremoff and green energy advisor Matt Macunas.

Tafline Laylin is a freelance communicator and journalist who strives for global environmental and social justice. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Atlantic, OZY.com, and a variety of other international publications.

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