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Robert Ferry and Elizabeth Monoian

Robert and Elizabeth have channeled an aesthetic appreciation of the natural and built environments into the global need for efficient, clean energy with the Land Art Generator Initiative. A global competition targeting specific location’s needs, LAGI has generated hundreds of submissions from over 40 countries.

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Robert Ferry and Elizabeth Monoian
“We are speaking to everyone who is interested in creative solutions for sustainable development within both urban and rural environments globally.”

​Not even six months after getting married, Robert Ferry quit his job to accompany his wife, Elizabeth Monoian, on a professorship with the American University in Dubai. The journey was as natural a fit as the couple, he an architect and she a new media artist, with a shared love of the genre of land art, incorporating natural and built environments. Living in one of the least sustainable cities in the world with a fossil-fueled economy, they brainstormed a way to merge their shared interests into the Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI).

LAGI tasks applicants with designing site-specific public artworks that are beautiful, functional and efficient, cleanly channeling natural energy into the electricity grid. Their first call-for-entries in 2010 addressed multiple sites in the United Arab Emirates, despite the fact they hadn’t secured funding right up to the launch of the project. Responding to an “urgency” to get the initiative going, Robert and Elizabeth “decided to go ahead with the launch and to offer a prize award of $15,000.” The call generated hundreds of submissions from over 40 countries. Funding did finally arrive from a renewable energy organization called Masdar, proving it a risk well worth taking. “It was a bit of a leap of faith for us and it is the decision that, in hindsight, transformed our passion project into a concrete venture.”

First place in their inaugural competition was awarded to a design consisting of nine monumental pyramids called Lunar Cubit. The new endeavor is much closer to the Pittsburgh-native’s home, bringing him back stateside. In partnership with NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, the couple is tackling the Freshkills landfill-turned-park on Staten Island. “Each design brief is drafted to reflect these important cultural differences for the city in which the design site is located,” Robert says, explaining that the best contenders to win this year’s $20,000 prize are “artworks that not only function to provide utility-scale renewable energy, but those that also achieve the greatest relevance for local stakeholders and best provide the added benefit of contributing to social harmony.”