|A message from Land Art Generator Initiative.
There are still a great many of our fellow citizens who do not recognize the seriousness of the climate change threat, despite the increasingly dire and catastrophic warnings from the scientific community.
The Land Art Generator Initiative is calling positive attention to the great energy transition by making its benefits visible to communities around the world. We are confident that this uplifting approach is more effective than stories of doom and gloom at reaching those who are still not yet convinced of the science, or who may be tempted to protest new solar and wind installations because they fear they are not visually pleasing.
At LAGI, we are celebrating the beauty of our renewable future by bringing creative minds together to design culturally relevant energy infrastructures that help neighborhoods and people directly. The next few years bring us the opportunity to expand our efforts in cities and in communities as a counterpoint to the likely absence of climate-oriented policies at the federal level.
The world that we would like to see emerge in the coming decades is one in which the mass proliferation of clean energy systems will also lead to some of the 21st century’s greatest works of civic art and social projects.
Our approach to sustainable energy should be suitable to and respectful of places and people. That is what LAGI is expert in, and it informs our unique approach to every project.
We write about this in our latest book, Powering Places, which is now available at your local bookseller. Click on this link for online purchasing options.
In addition to thoughtful essay contributions1, the book details over 60 of the most interesting entries to this year’s LAGI design competition.
Example spread from Powering Places
Teams around the world were challenged to create a piece of civic art that also acts as sustainable and renewable energy and drinking water infrastructure for the city of Santa Monica, California. The result is an astounding sampling of innovative and artistic solutions that employ the latest wave, tidal, wind, solar, and other technologies.
1 Thank you to the Powering Places essay contributors:
Craig Watson (Director, California Arts Council)
Composing for Energy Engagement – studies in sm/art infrastructures – PhD Dissertation by Lea Schick
For more information about Lea Schick at Copenhagen University
Rising energy consumption, access to fossil fuels, and not least climate issues have put energy infrastructures on the agenda in many parts of the world. How to redesign electricity infrastructures in ways that ensure stable, affordable and ‘clean’ energy production? Denmark has set the ambitious goal to show the world that it is possible to replace all fossil fuels (including for transport and heating) with renewable energy, primarily wind, and thus become CO2–neutral before 2050. An integral part of a ‘green transition’ in Demark, and in many other countries, is a so-called smart grid, which can handle distributed energy production and ensure ‘flexible electricity consumption’. The smart energy infrastructure should ensure that electricity is consumed as the wind blows and it thus designates new forms of involvement of end users. Whereas the current electricity infrastructure has been carefully designed to be invisible, unnoticed, and un-engaging, a green transition will most likely make energy more visible and one of the major challenges proves to be how to re-design for more and for ‘the right’ kinds of energy engagement. This challenge is not only taken up by engineers and policy planers, but also by artists and designers.
This thesis investigates different experimental cases within Danish smart grid planning and within art and design. Each case raises the issue of engagement differently. Grounded in science and technology studies (STS) energy engagement is here taken to be a dynamic and changeable ‘thing’ emerging through socio-technical relations and infrastructural environments. As the different cases ‘compose’ relations between people, energy, infrastructures, and environmental issues differently, they make possible specific kinds of engagement and not others. It is the specific compositions of energy engagement and their potentiality that is central to this dissertation.
In concert with a growing body of literature within social science and humanities the dissertation seeks to expand approaches to energy that mainly focus on its technological and economic aspects. Instead, passing through the notion of engagement the dissertation is concerned with broadening our analytical and practical understanding of energy. Taking seriously the urgent need for radical energy transitions the main contribution of the dissertation is to describe and analyze and to move between various attempts to ‘speed up’ and ‘slow down’ reasoning in cases of composing energy infrastructures. The dissertation highlights how energy can engage both engineers and artists, and illustrates the importance of keeping very different actors in the picture if the goal is to stay open and experimental with regards to which kinds of future energy engagements and sm/art infrastructures are possible and desirable.
Thank you to Patrick Devine-Wright Professor of Human geography at University of Exeter for this link.
We are Sheffield School of Architecture, MArch Studio Future Works 2015-2016, looking at energy, industry and manufacturing. Over the next six months we will be designing, both collectively and individually for the future of this region. This initial stage of our project has taken our team to several existing factory precedents and allowed us to observe a variety of industrial processes. The studio’s main driver is to explore the typology of ‘Future Factories’ with a particular focus on energy.
The pie charts on the right indicate the current energy situation in the UK.
The majority of energy is currently provided by non-renewable sources. 30% is sourced from coal and 30% from gas. A further 19% is produced from nuclear energy power plants with a further 4 additional plants planned for completion in the near future. At present 19% is supplied by renewable sources.
By 2050 we would love to see…
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Excerpts from a recent Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) blog,
We believe that there is no better tool for creating a tipping point to strong climate action and 100% renewable energy infrastructure than to present a positive vision to the public of what that could look like and the residual benefits that such policies would bring to cities. The opportunity to bring new energy technologies into city planning and creative placemaking projects is at the heart of LAGI. As a part of the design and implementation of constructed works, LAGI educational programming provides the perfect platform for extensive community engagement and participatory design processes, leading to infrastructures that benefit the greatest number of people. LAGI Glasgow is proving to be the perfect example of this ideal delivery model.
In early 2013, we received an email from Chris Fremantle, producer, researcher, and founder of ecoartscotland. Following on conversations he had…
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Land Art Generator Initiative are on of the world’s leading arts organisations engaging in energy issues – this talk in Edinburgh later this November is unmissable for anyone interested in developing work in the arts and energy space.
As we aggressively implement strategies towards 100% carbon-free energy and witness a greater proliferation of renewable energy infrastructures in our cities and landscapes, we have an opportunity to proactively address the aesthetic influence of these new machines through the lenses of planning, urban design, community benefit, and creative placemaking. Please join the Land Art Generator Initiative, Creative Carbon Scotland, SCENE Consulting, and ecoartscotland for a presentation and discussion about the aesthetic and cultural implications and the concomitant potential for community benefit of renewable energy infrastructure.
LAGI Founding Directors Elizabeth Monoian and Robert Ferry will speak about the LAGI 2016 Open Competition and the LAGI Glasgow project, highlighting the role that creatives are playing in the design of our energy futures.
Location: Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation
Date: lunchtime (12.30-2pm) 18 November 2015
The Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) brings together artists, architects, scientists, landscape architects, engineers, and…
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Artist Clare Bryden creator of ‘Particulart‘ talks about the impact of Didcot powerstation on art and our views on energy.
Growing up with Didcot Power Station
There aren’t many essays I remember writing at school. I spent most of my time in the sixth form studying Maths and Physics or in the nascent computer room. But then there was Geography and, for a brief term or two, General Studies.
Despite not leading to an exam, General Studies nevertheless – shock! – managed to broaden my education. It introduced me to Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1, thereby opening the world of classical music that previously I had only played or sung but not truly heard. And through an assignment to write about four buildings, it gave me an appreciation of architecture and form. The fourth building was Didcot Power Station. It is this essay on Didcot that I best remember.
I was born and grew up in Abingdon in the Vale of White Horse just south of Oxford. The original coal-fired power station, now known as Didcot A, was commissioned one year before I arrived into the world. It was located close to sources of rapidly-growing demand for electricity in order to reduce transmission losses but therefore, unusually, in a rural area with great natural beauty.
As a result, more attention was paid to its aesthetics than to most other power stations. My mother managed to find my essay:
“Special consideration has been given in the layout and landscaping of the power station to minimise its impact on the Thames Valley. An eminent architect [Frederick Gibberd] was appointed and under him, every attention has been given to the arrangement and architectural treatment of the buildings. Power stations of similar capacity in other parts of the country have eight cooling towers concentrated in one area. At Didcot, there are only six cooling towers arranged in two groups of three, half a mile apart, despite the increased construction costs and reduced efficiency [I found out later that Henry Moore may have had a small role in the composition]. Also, the earth excavated from the foundations of the main buildings, around 1.5 million tonnes, was used to form an embankment, and seeded with grass to screen the huge coal store. Landscaping [directed by landscape architect Brenda Colvin] has included the preservation of as many of the trees which were growing on the site as possible. Approximately 1,200 screening trees and bushes have been planted in areas overlooking the site…
“While the aesthetic appearance of the chimney stack and the cooling towers has some importance, because they dominate the countryside, the other buildings are built to maximise their efficiency. Consequently the only aesthetic value they have is that their rectangular shapes contrast with the curves of the towers.”
Dominate the countryside they certainly did, as well as the interior landscape of my childhood. The cooling towers were always there, always drawing my eye and my thoughts. On every walk there was always the question: can we see Didcot from here?
It wasn’t all positive. I had bad hayfever growing up, possibly sensitised by pollution from the stack.
I clearly remember the power cuts of the mid-1970s, and the many lengthy blackouts seeped into my subconscious. Like a person who has experienced starvation and fixates on food, I think I have never truly stopped believing that shortages will happen again. Occasionally still, I find myself glad I have candles and camping gas in the house.
Maybe the shortages are seared into the national subconscious too, given the politicians’ mantra during election time about how we need to “keep the lights on”. My response nowadays is “Do we really? Why? How did we get so reliant on electricity and other forms of energy, while taking them so much for granted?”
With the Didcot essay, my mother found another which I had no recollection of writing on: “How can we meet the ever increasing demand for energy?” I no longer hold some of the views I expressed, so perhaps I blanked it out. But it is a good example of the importance of never being content with the information to hand, and continuing to investigate, and on the other side of the coin the mutability of opinion, and the potential for changing minds and hearts.
I am almost certain that Didcot’s looming bulk sparked my interest in energy and shaped my environmental interests and career. But I am not the only person which it has sensitised. Many regard it as a blot on the landscape, many others have seen its sculptural appeal, and some hold both opinions.
Didcot has been celebrated in photography and social commentary by other locals, exalted and damned by commentators from Marina Warner to Simon Hoggart, and immortalised in poetry and painting. Roger Wagner used a view of the six towers and chimney as a back-drop to the crucifixion drama in his painting “Menorah”. Sir Tim Rice and Kit Wright have both written an “Ode to Didcot Power Station”, and John Elinger won a poetry prize for “The Cooling Towers at Didcot”.
Now the time for art is running out. RWE npower decided not to fit flue gas desulphurisation equipment, so under EU law the power station could only run for up to 20,000 more hours, and it finally ceased operation on 22 March 2013.
Barbaresi & Round were resident artists during the last three months of operation. In their blog, Where clouds are made, they wrote: “Through the project we want to explore how the power plant and cooling towers have come to play an imaginative role in the sense of place for Didcot residents and beyond.” But sadly, Historic England assessed the cooling towers as unsuitable for listing building status. Although Gibberd’s design had “strong resonance”, Didcot conformed too much to the old CEGB standards and policies.
So at 5.01am on 27 July 2014, the three southern cooling towers were demolished. I wanted to go, but it seemed daft to drive all that way from Exeter in the middle of the night for 15 seconds of action. And yet… the 15 seconds are not really the point. The crowds that turned out to watch were a celebration of Didcot Power Station, and a testament to its role in place-making, in the imagination, conscious, subconscious, and life stories of many people.