A total of 28 projects have made it to the shortlist for the sixth Land Art Generator Initiative design competition, a brief which called for a landmark energy-generating work of public art for a site at the entrance to Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City.
The shortlisted proposals – selected from around 300 submissions from 65 countries – are summarised here. They will be on display at the 24th World Energy Congress (Abu Dhabi, 9-12 September) and the winner will be announced on day two of the event. LAGI will also be running workshops and seminars during the conference.
The competition was open to landscape architects, engineers, artists, designers, “and other international renewable energy enthusiasts” and a prize pot of $50,000 obviously attracted a strong field.
As LAGI’s directors, Elizabeth Monoian and Robert Ferry, put it: “The results of this year’s challenge have risen beyond our expectations and clearly point us in a positive direction toward a sustainable future.”
Optimism is key to LAGI’s ambitions, of course. “As we embark upon the great energy transition, let’s leave a legacy for future generations – destinations where our children’s children can reflect upon this important time in human history by experiencing the most artful applications of the technologies humans have invented to solve the climate crisis.”
The site specified for the designs is a 24,500 m2 green space, part of the proposed public park that will act as the northern gateway to Masdar City.
Mind you, there’s no guarantee that whatever wins will actually get built; Masdar City’s own stuttering progress suggests that external issues (like money, thwarted ambition and changes in personnel or strategic direction) might get in the way.
But so far everyone involved does seem to be serious, and the impressive heavyweight jury for the contest includes some local big hitters – it’s headed by HE Fatima Alfoora Alshamsi, Assistant Undersecretary for Electricity and Future Energy in the UAE Ministry of Energy and Industry; and from Masdar we have the influential Lukas Sokol (head of City Design and Sustainable Planning) and Chris Wan (head of Design Management) plus Yousef Ahmed Baselaib, Executive Director for Sustainable Real Estate.
The UAE has one of the world’s highest energy consumption rates (it’s up there with Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, though weirdly it’s a long way behind Iceland – which is a lot colder and has a tiny population, so the consumption per person is huge). Average annual electricity usage in Dubai per individual is said by DEWA to be around 20,000 KWh, for instance.
So some of the LAGI contenders could make a significant contribution, if only locally – several entries promise over 2,500 MWh per year, some a lot more. Solar Present (Miguel Fuentes and Edlyn Garciá la Torre) is a solar concentrator good for 1,500 MWh annually, and it also distils water – 2m litres annually; Forest of Light, one of several impressive South Korean entries, generates a whopping 9,500 MWh pa from a forest of solar concentrators; and Nest by Robert Flottesmach is a series of PV-panelled biodomes shaped like jewelled eggs that will be good for a suspiciously precise 6,633 MWh per year.
Above is the Solar Compass designed by the 2014 LAGI winner, Santiago Muros Cortés from Buenos Aires. A solar concentrator that should be good for 4,000 MWh per year, it follows his principle that symbolism and accessibility should both play an intrinsic role in this kind of public art; the tip of the ‘needle’ of the compass contains the receiver that gathers sunlight from an array of flat heliostats facing upwards. That can produce a temperature of 600ºC at the receiver, where water flashes to steam to drive a turbine and electric generator. Part of the energy produced is transferred directly to the grid, the rest is stored in batteries within the structure of the ‘compass’. It looks good, and its circular styling provides a public plaza beneath.
All the entries have to be good art as well as good generators, and here’s our pick of the rest of the press-released summaries: