Green power in Dubai

Plans are afoot to build green-energy-producing works of art in Dubai – pretty power generators, if you will

Interview, Area Guides
Interview, Area Guides

Power plants don’t tend to be the prettiest of structures, but that could all change if a certain Dubai-based husband-and-wife team’s bright idea comes off. Robert Ferry and Elizabeth Monoian, an architect and an
artist/designer respectively, have launched a competition to design ‘Land Art Generators’ – essentially public artworks that produce green energy to be used by each and every citizen in Dubai.

It may sound too good to be true, but the couple assures Time Out that the winning design will be up and running in our city by 2014. We grilled Ferry about the inspiration behind the scheme and the entries that have poured in from artists, architects, scientists and engineers from more than 40 countries.

So what inspired the Land Art Generator initiative?
We were inspired by the UAE’s incredible proximity to natural resources of energy – it receives probably the most hours of direct solar radiation of anywhere on the planet; there are incredibly powerful seasonal winds; and there are tides and wave energy to be utilised along the coastline. That, and the audacity of the large-scale projects here, which aim to be greater and grander than anything in the world.

Why did you want these green generators to double as art?
An easy example is a wind turbine project off the coast of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard in the US. Both of these communities are populated by fairly rich people – it didn’t suit their lifestyle to look out on the horizon and see wind turbines. So that project had a lot of hurdles to jump for approval that it shouldn’t necessarily have had to go through. Not enough consideration has been taken as to what the impact of these projects is on the infrastructure of our cities. We were responding to the community backlash against utilitarian-looking construction within a residential setting.

Can you tell us about a few designs you’ve liked so far?
Elizabeth and I won’t be choosing the winning design. Instead, there’s a jury of artists, architects, academics and industry leaders. But a lot of the designs are using cutting-edge technology – for example, there’s a new translucent panel that takes the refraction of light through the panel itself, and the refraction process multiplies the energy-harnessing effect of the material. One of the projects created a beautiful composition of a ribbon throughout the landscape using this panel. Some are even playful – there’s a project featuring beach ball-like structures that are weighted down and people can go up and kick them around. They wouldn’t really move, they’d just wobble.

Is there a planned location for the winning generator?
The spot that’s been chosen is between the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary and the Lagoons development. It’s right in the middle of the city, but is also a very beautiful landscape.

Considering the sheer number of construction projects in Dubai, coupled with the current financial climate, when do you realistically see this project coming to fruition?
Realistically, I’d say the UAE’s first energy-producing artwork will be complete in three years. The thing about these generators is that they’re not Burj Khalifas. They’re a little bit less ambitious than that.

How much energy will a Land Art Generator produce?
It depends on the entry that wins, but there are concepts that would create significant amounts of energy. They would actually function as power plants; the power would be input into the grid. So everybody in Dubai can say to themselves that at least a little bit of the power that goes into their refrigerator is coming from a work of art.

See for yourself!

From August 1, Robert and Elizabeth will be posting three designs a week on their blog so everyone can check out Dubai’s proposed pretty power generators. Visit

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