Elizabeth Monoian and Robert Ferry
Working at the intersection of art, the environment, and sustainable human systems, the Land Art Generator Initiative reimagines the role of clean-energy generation within urban and suburban communities. As wind turbines and solar arrays become ever more ubiquitous, all too often these structures are denounced by neighbors as “visual pollution” that defiles the landscape and wrecks the skyline. Seeking to break through such cultural roadblocks to climate-change solutions, the designer Elizabeth Monoian and architect Robert Ferry set out to construct a series of large-scale, site-specific public art installations that uniquely combine art with clean-energy generation. By transforming unloved energy devices into inspiring sculptures, the project aims to activate public space, build platforms for education, and turn power plants into tourist destinations—all while pumping clean energy into the grid. Through this multifaceted approach, the initiative also envisions a new model for public investment in renewable energy infrastructure. By combining the economic return from an array of sectors into a single capital investment, such installations reap the benefits of electricity generation alongside urban placemaking, technology research, tourism, and habitat protection. In creatively integrating infrastructure into urban design, zoning ordinances, and building codes, the Land Art Generator Initiative aspires to turn energy installations into monuments for future generations.
Five Questions for Elizabeth Monoian and Robert Ferry
1. What needs does the Land Art Generator Initiative address and how?
We provide a platform for artists, architects, landscape architects, and other creatives to work with engineers and scientists to bring forward human-centered solutions for sustainable energy infrastructures that enhance the city as works of public art while cleanly powering thousands of homes.
2. Tell us about a moment that inspired your project.
We find inspiration from three fundamental sources: the Land Art and Eco Art movements, which opened the door to artists working at the scale of the environment; the recognition that wind turbines and solar arrays are beginning to have a sizable impact on the constructed environment; and a recognition of the role that creatives can have on accelerating popular acceptance and the implementation of practical solutions to social problems.
3. What is the biggest challenge you face?
This initiative is all about big ideas. We are often asked how many land art generators we have constructed so far. After five years since the start of the project, we are now in the process of bringing some of them to life, but we need to recognize that these design ideas are ambitious and will require significant resources and stakeholder support to implement.
4. What other leaders have informed your work?
We are inspired by the work of the Living Future Institute, IDEO, and The Biomimicry Institute, just to name a few. We are also inspired by artists who have placed the environment and social change at the center of their work, from the Earth Art and Eco Art movements, to artists who have pushed the boundaries of social practice and infrastructure-as-art.
5. Describe someone who highlights what your project is all about.
We recently held an Art+Energy Summer Camp in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where we worked with 20 talented young minds to design and construct a functioning 4.1 kWp solar artwork for the Homewood Renaissance Community Center. The project and outcomes reinforced the importance of engaging people (of all ages) with the design and implementation of renewable energy technologies so that these objects can be celebrated as part of a broader grassroots community development strategy.