Founding Story


In 2008 we (Elizabeth and Robert) got married and moved to Dubai. One evening in October of 2008, overlooking Ski Dubai with a bottle of wine, we set the wheels in motion to create a platform for creatives around the world to design our clean energy landscapes.

Inspired by the Arabian landscape, UAE ambitions, a history of Land Art amongst Emirati artists, and our shared interest in addressing climate change, we brainstormed the Land Art Generator.

Questions we asked ourselves this evening were: What if the next 600-meter tall skyscrapers incorporated the latest in concentrated solar power and solar updraft technologies that could passively cool the interior while converting the sun’s energy into power for an entire neighborhood?

What if our cities were populated by living buildings that functioned like canopy trees in a forest—converting the energy of the sun and the wind into electricity while passively regulating the environment?

Building integration leads to district and city-wide integration of clean energy. What role is there for artists and designers to make these new sustainable infrastructures into joyful contributions to public spaces? What if a new generation of land artists used renewable technology as their media?

The first LAGI "manifesto" that we wrote that October was for a grant in the UAE (that we didn't get). Even though we lacked the financial support needed, we believed that it was an idea worth moving forward on.

Through an
exhibition at the DUCTAC gallery in Dubai in early 2009 we shared the LAGI idea publicly for the first time. And spent that year choosing design sites, putting together our first design brief document, finding jurors, and getting ready to launch our first international design competition. We also spent time designing "precedent" ideas to help people imagine what it was that we were talking about. The Ibn Al Haytham Pavilion and Khorfakkan Necklace shown above are two examples.

After launching the first LAGI open call in January 2010 and still without sponsorship for the prize awards, we were not sure what to expect. When the submissions came in over the final 24 hours we knew that we were on to something! The hundreds of designs were spectacular and represented over 40 countries­­. We knew then that the world was ready to get behind the idea of large-scale public artworks that could also generate utility-scale clean energy.

We approached Masdar with this portfolio of ideas and they generously agreed to support the LAGI 2010 prize and exhibitions at the World Future Energy Summit in January of 2011. We are incredibly grateful to them and also to Zayed University who provided us with the research platform needed through the Provost's Research Fellowship to move forward on LAGI 2012. Another early supporter is the Horne Family Foundation and the National Endowment for the arts, who together made it possible to deliver LAGI 2012 to New York City.

This critical early support is directly responsible for bringing together thousands of people from over 60 countries working collaboratively to solve one of the most pressing challenges of our time.

And the work continues, thanks in part to the J.M. Kaplan Fund and supporters like you who believe in the beauty of our sustainable future, and in the value of the arts to instill scientific curiosity in generations to come.


Follow this link to find the LAGI 2010 Launch Brochure

LAGI precedent design concept, 2009

The first camera obscura was built by Arab scientist Abu Ali Al-Hasan Ibn Al-Haytham, born in Basra (965-1039 CE), who carried out practical experiments on optics in his “Book of Optics”. In his experiments, Ibn Al-Haytham used the term Al-Bayt al-Muthlim, translated in English as dark room. In the experiment he undertook in order to establish that light travels in time and with speed, he wrote: “If the hole was covered with a curtain and the curtain was taken off, the light traveling from the hole to the opposite wall will consume time.” He reiterated the same experience when he established that light travels in straight lines. A revealing experiment introduced the camera obscura in studies of the half-moon shape of the sun’s image during eclipses which he observed on the wall opposite a small hole made in the window shutters. Concentrated photovoltaic (CPV or HPVC) technology concentrates sunlight through a lens onto a high performance solar cell, thus increasing the electricity generated over conventional PV panels. Typical photovoltaic panels only convert about 20 percent of incoming light into energy. CPV cells utilize multijunction photovoltaics which can reach efficiencies of 40 percent.


Typically the CPV solar cell lies directly beneath the fresnel lens or parabolic mirror concentrator. In the Ibn Al-Haytham Pavilion, this type of system is modified to create beams of vertical light with the power of 800 suns by concentrating sunlight through fresnel lenses at the roof. These beams are then re-concentrated at the raised floor level by a second fresnel lens field and onto the CPV cells which are arrayed in a naturally cooled plenum space at ground level.

Download the PDF design boards.