Saturday, December 6, 2008

Artist as Environmental Urban Innovator

On Thursday, December 4 Cascadia BC hosted a talk by artist Noel Harding entitled "Artist as Environmental Urban Innovator".

One of Noel Harding's more well know pieces of work was the "Elevated Wetlands" in Toronto (pictured above). This project was commissioned by the plastics industry to create a piece of public artwork for the city of Toronto. Noel discussed how he came up with the idea of the elevated wetlands and the process of the production.

Currently, Noel is working on a project in Windsor, ON, just across the USA border. This project is called the Green Corridor and sits on one of the only Mexico - Canada highway routes. The project is on a highly industrial area and Noel took it upon himself to find opportunities for the 'crappy buildings' in the area. This project is in collaboration with the University of Windsor and the broader Windsor community as well as stakeholder that use the land (ie, the large number of truck drivers that pass through every day.) The area that is being used for the project is a 2 km area of land just across the border in Canada. Projects include a green overpass walkway with wind turbines, floating rehabilitating gardens in the river, green residential homes and an educational wetland and urban park area. The project is a good example of a collaborative urban planning project that utilizes various disciplines to create a functional and aesthetic urban environment.

While Noel mostly gave examples of his projects his underlying message was that all his projects are small symbols of what can be possible on the broad scale. While the 2 km area of land is being transformed into a more ecologically and socially friendly area of town it is primarily a symbol of what can be possible on a larger scale.

I found many of his ideas to be very interesting and quite simple. For example, the idea of putting wind turbines on highway overpasses to generate power from cars passing underground is genius in it's simplicity.

The technology and designs exist to create a more sustainable world, it is merely a matter of implementing what already exists.

A short animated film on the Green Corridor:

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