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Competition: Land Art Generator Initiative 2019, Masdar

An open international contest has been announced for a clean energy-generating art installation in Masdar City, UAE (Deadline: 12 May)

The anonymous and free-to-enter competition – featuring a $40,000 USD top prize – seeks iconic proposals for a landmark gateway structure harnessing renewable energy technology within Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City eco-development.

The call for ideas, backed by renewable energy company Masdar and the 24th World Energy Congress (WEC), is the latest to be held as part of the ongoing Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI) which has hosted a similar contest every two years since 2008. This year’s competition focusses on creating a new social space on a 20,000m² site within the Foster + Partners-masterplanned development.

Contest site

Contest site

Contest site

According to the brief: ‘LAGI 2019—Return to the Source—invites you to create an iconic work of art for a landmark site within Masdar City, Abu Dhabi. Your artwork will use renewable energy technology as a medium of creative expression and will provide on-site energy production consistent with the master plan of the city.

‘The goal of LAGI 2019 is to bring forward a portfolio of feasible concept designs that push the boundaries of what is possible using today’s renewable energy technologies. To ensure that the proposals are constructible, this will be the first LAGI design competition that will provide a capital cost restriction as a part of the design brief. The cost per watt of installed nameplate capacity is meant to provide guidance and steer proposals towards technologies that are ready for implementation.’

Located around 17km south of Abu Dhabi, Masdar City is a planned low-carbon settlement powered by solar panels and other renewable energy sources. The 6km2 development will feature a mix of residential, commercial, educational and public spaces when it completes in 2030.

Masdar City

Masdar City

Masdar City

LAGI was launched in 2008 as a platform for designing and constructing new large-scale public art installations that generate clean energy. Previous contests have focussed on sites in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, New York, Copenhagen, Santa Monica, and Melbourne.

The latest competition seeks proposals which conform to an estimated budget of $20 per watt installed – the cost of solar photovoltaic panels during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Since then the cost has dropped 85 per cent to just $3 allowing participants to budget the $17 difference towards artistic elements instead.

Proposals should provide a shaded and ‘thought-provoking’ space for recreation and contemplation. Submissions must include three A1-sized boards featuring conceptual images along with a 1,200-word written description.

Judges include Masdar head of city design and sustainable planning Lukas Sokol; Zac Cirivello, operations manager at the Fly Ranch Burning Man Project; Hala El Akl, director at London-based PLP Architecture; and Raya Ani, founder of US-based RAW-NYC Architects.

The competition winner, to be announced in August, will receive a $40,000 top prize while a second-place prize of $10,000 will also be awarded. Representatives from each winning team will be invited to attend an award ceremony at September’s World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi and the top 50 designs will also be published.

How to apply


The deadline for submissions is 12 May

Contact details


View the competition website for more information

Q&A with Elizabeth Monoian and Robert Ferry

The founding directors of LAGI discuss their ambitions for the contest

Elizabeth Monoian and Robert Ferry

Elizabeth Monoian and Robert Ferry

Elizabeth Monoian and Robert Ferry

Why are your holding an international design contest for an artwork in Masdar City?

We’ve been following the Masdar City development closely since our time living in the UAE from 2008–2012. Last year, the 24th WEC organizing committee reached out to us asking if we could bring a LAGI competition to Abu Dhabi as an official congress side event. Together we approached Masdar as the ideal site partner.

Masdar City is pioneering sustainable urban development by incubating real-world solutions in energy and water efficiency, mobility, and waste management. For more than a decade, Masdar has been a global leader in renewable energy deployment and sustainable urban development and the city continues to achieve standards of excellence for high-performance buildings and landscapes.

As the Masdar City development continues to expand, the public art contributed as part of the LAGI design competition will take centre-stage in the community’s new and existing recreational spaces. The competition will demonstrate site-specific examples of how beautiful renewable energy systems can occupy public spaces in ways that contribute to human culture and learning, while reducing the city’s carbon footprint. By taking an egalitarian approach through an international open call, LAGI competitions seek to draw out the most innovative solutions from wherever in the world they may originate.

Masdar City

Masdar City

Masdar City

What is your vision for the new artistic installation?

There are no limits to the benefits the installations may provide to the public. The Site boundary is 22,000 square meters or about 5.5 acres, and it is located at a major entrance to the city, which covers a total of six square kilometres. The jury selection criteria are written to encourage innovation, creativity, and quality design for permanent artwork that will stand the test of time.

We look forward to seeing all of the inventive and creative ways that designers respond to the challenge of using renewable energy technologies as the media for public art, and in what ways their designs will engage the public, contribute to the renewable energy capacity of the city, and demonstrate a high standard of living in harmony with the planet.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

LAGI’s open call competitions are open to everyone and registration is free. We encourage interdisciplinary teams to submit their ideas, but also welcome entries from individuals. The selection process is entirely anonymous, and the jury comprises professionals from across a broad spectrum of expertise. There are no regulations regarding team composition and previous LAGI design competitions have demonstrated that good ideas come from everywhere.

We encourage designers of all career stages to participate in LAGI competitions. For LAGI 2012 NYC Freshkills Park, two of the winners were from the same senior studio at Georgia Tech. The LAGI 2018 Melbourne winners were both established firms with first place going to a large collaborative team comprised of NH Architecture, Ark Resources, John Bahoric Design, and RMIT Architecture Students. Second place was designed by the well-known Seattle firm Olson Kundig.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

Although we cannot share the details yet, we will be making a big announcement this month about LAGI 2020—our next open call competition—which will be held for a site in the American West. The project partners are committed to implementing functional prototypes of selected submissions and the site and design brief will present a new range of challenges with a focus on the intersection of art and integrated systems design.

Are there any other recent art installation projects using renewable energy you have been impressed by?

We find inherent beauty in many utility-scale renewable energy installations and there are some fascinating advances taking place in the design of the technologies themselves. Structural colour can now be added to solar module glass and full-colour images can be placed onto the laminate with little loss in efficiency. New geometries continue to be developed for harnessing the wind.

Artists using renewable energy in their work include Mags Harries and Lajos Heder (SunFlowers — An Electric Garden, 2008, Austin TX), and Sarah Hall Studios. Víctor Pérez-Rul’s Exoskeleton, 2017, Austin TX is meanwhile a public sculpture that feeds on sunlight, during the day and then beats with light during the sunset and into the night.

Going further back in history, you can be inspired by Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s Waste-to-Energy power plant in Vienna (1969), or even the art-deco sculpture integrated into the Hoover Dam hydroelectric power plant (1936).

We are also excited about our LAGI Solar Mural art program, which allows nearly any new mural to become a part of a clean energy solution to climate change, for example, La Monarca, 2017, San Antonio, TX by Cruz Ortiz and Penelope Boyer with LAGI.