Power Freshkills Park with Art


In partnership with the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, the 2012 Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) ideas competition asks landscape architects, architects, planners, artists, and engineers to submit proposals for a 100-acre “pragmatic art installation” in Freshkills Park, Staten Island, New York City that can generate power from renewable energy sources.

According to Freshkills Park, the park will total 2,200 acres when completed, making it almost three times the size of Central Park. In an amazing transformation of what was formerly the world’s largest landfill, a decrepit garbage dump of a landscape may become a “symbol of renewal and an expression of how our society can restore balance.” Designed by James Corner Field Operations, the park will provide hundreds of acres of recreational opportunities. A full-scale ecological restoration by ecologist Steven Handel is also underway, which will underpin the environmental education programs.

LAGI’s idea competition, like the one held in 2010 in Abu Dhabi, is designed to unleash wildly creative thinking about how renewable energy can be made beautiful. The idea this year is to design a public artwork for Freshkills that will not only have “conceptual beauty” but can also harness energy from nature and convert it into electricity. The group’s organizers emphasize that they don’t want a timid public art work, but instead seek to leverage the “expansiveness” of Freshkills to create a massive 100-acre art project that can power thousands of nearby homes from Freshkills’ East or North parks. 

Specifically, entries must include a “three-dimensional sculptural form” that can inspire visitors to think deeply about “broad ideas as ecological systems, human habitation and development, energy and resource generation and consumption,” but can also sit within the historical and ecological context of the site. The artwork must capture energy from nature (in the form of wind, solar or solar thermal, or another renewable energy mechanism), convert it into electricity, and be capable to transmitting energy via a power grid connection point. “Consideration should be made for artfully housing the required transformer and electrical equipment within the project boundary.”

Entries cannot have negative environmental impacts on the park or release greenhouse gas emissions. Each submittal must then include a brief environmental impact assessment. Given the park rests on top of a landfill cap, the designers will also need to discuss how the project will fit in with those carefully engineered systems. “The cap shall not be penetrated in any manner for any reason.” 

Furthermore, LAGI asks teams to use scalable and tested technologies. “It is recommended that the design team make an effort to engage the manufacturers of existing technology in preliminary dialogue as a part of their own research and development of the design entry.”

Submit your concepts before July 1, 2012. The jury considering the entries includes top designers like James Corner, ASLA, and Bjarke Ingels, as well as senior officials from Staten Island, the NYC Departments of Sanitation and Parks & Recreation, the NYC Public Art Commission, and U.S. Department of Energy.

Winners will take home $20,000 in award money. LAGI writes that the award will not guarantee a construction commission, but the “most pragmatic and aesthetic” designs will be promoted to local NYC stakeholders. Separately, a competition for high school students interested in how to power NYC with art will be open at the same time, with $1,000 up for grabs.

Image credit: Freshkills Park, North Park / NYC Department of Parks & Recreation

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