The Land Art Generator Initiative provides a platform for a variety of creative disciplines “to bring forward solutions for sustainable energy infrastructures that enhance the city as works of public art while cleanly powering thousands of homes.” In 2012, the competition asked participants to design a sustainable land art installation and tourist attraction for the former Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island, NY. Nadi placed fourth in the design competition out of 250 international entries.
We designed 99 red balloons—inspired by the 1980s pop hit 99 Luft Balloons—to interact playfully with park visitors while floating 100 feet in the air. We anchored the balloons to the landfill vents through a tapering steel plinth and included perforations at the base, allowing the vents to aerate correctly and creating a safe barrier between visitors and the landfill infrastructure. Inside the balloon cavity, we placed solar panels to potentially generate enough energy to power 4,500 homes on an annual basis. To minimize our installation’s impact on the environment, we covered a portion of the base with soil to let native plant species, designed the boardwalk system to sit above grade and avoid interference with existing land-based ecosystems, and ensured that the balloon’s highest elevation would still sit well below important bird migration routes.
As a red balloon is a childlike and universal symbol of celebration, our role in this competition aimed to translate that feeling into our conceptual design. Furthermore, we used innovate elements to address the real social, political and environmental problems connected to the abandoned landfill. We created a conceptual solution that, among other things: generated abundant clean electricity, maintained the delicate clay cap sealing the methane-rich landfill and respected the legacy of the site as the home of debris from the September 11 attacks.