1st Place Winner for LAGI 2012: Scene Sensor // Crossing Social and Ecological Flows

Artist Team: James Murray, Shota Vashakmadze
Artist Location: Atlanta, USA
Energy Technologies: Piezoelectric Generators (Thin Film and Embedded Wire)
Annual Capacity: 5,500 MWh

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Artist Descriptive Text:

Key interactions of human and ecological energies, above and below the surface of Freshkills, drive complex environmental flows, allowing us to question how to sense, channel, and harness their energies in a productive tension, revealing their interconnected fluctuations in beneficial ways.

Scene-Sensor situates itself at the intersection of flows joining and separating opposing landforms: as a channel screen, harnessing the flows of wind through the tidal artery, and as vantage points, staging crosswise pedestrian flows through the park, the two acting in combination as a mirror-window, reflecting and revealing the scene of Freshkills’ fluctuating landscape back to itself.

The undulating landforms, both above and below the surface, are products of dueling forces: natural and artificial composition. An invisible trace of material history is pinned between its identities of wilderness, marsh, landfill, and public space. But the flows of human and ecological energies are understood as being mutually exclusive, outside the reciprocating senses that have defined the confluence of the landscape. Our proposal constructs a union of these seemingly disparate flows, setting the stage for one another through a sensor of visible and invisible forces: the Scene-Sensor.

Between the North and East mounds a channel of ecological flows defines a corridor of optimum wind flow. To sense and harness the energies inherent to this conduit we propose a wind mapping screen. Two planes, aligned to each mound’s flare station, span the width between the landfill caps and reach the height of the towers, lifting above the waterline without disturbing the local ecosystem.

The channel screens compose a framework for panels free to bend with the wind, reacting individually while articulating larger scale flows as a field. The pixels become an index that reveals the shifting winds and maps fluctuations in the resolute collection of energy. Each panel of reflective metallic mesh, interwoven with piezoelectric wires, transforms forces of motion into electrical current. Perpendicular to the channel screens, the movement of visitors across the park’s only bridge presents a mechanical force to be harvested through piezoelectric transducers, embedding pedestrian flows within the ecological scene. On a spring day, the energy collected through these intersecting processes would be enough to power twelve hundred households.

As evening sets in, a mesh of lights between the channel screens replace reflections of the daylight, displaying a memory of the generated energy. The existing bridge now operates as a vantage point for the constantly illuminated wind flow while Scene-Sensor affords discrete views ramping within and along the meshwork. These perspectival points carve paths through the mesh of light, situating an overlay of flows above and across, woven together to make sense of the landscape.

Scene-Sensor’s impositions of shifting transparency and opacity, light and darkness, and reflection and refraction stage a doubled identity of the mirror-window. As a mirror, it monitors oscillations in energy collection and projects them onto a reflection of surrounding sights. Yet as a window, it frames the unseen, materializing ephemeral textures while affording unprecedented apertures into Freshkills’ scenery.

Never completely a mirror and never completely a window, it seamlessly changes in character and scale: from the perimeter, it is a subsumed monolith, capable of transforming into a guiding beacon; from the hills’ crest, a prism aligned to the flare stations’ crosscutting flows, and a sedentary ‘x’ marking perpetual forces; from the bridge, a stage for human and natural performances which entangle observation and participation; and from within, a microcosm caught between acts, of travelers gazing and drifting, hypnotized and empowered by a recognition of their setting with a glimpse through the Scene-Sensor.