The inspiration for the title is a reference to the story of Masdar and to the founding of LAGI a decade ago in the UAE. Masdar is the Arabic word for “source.” As the name of Abu Dhabi’s multifaceted renewable energy company and most ambitious low-carbon development, it is a reference to the sun, the source of energy that sustains life on Earth and drives the wind and waves. Over millions of years, the sun has powered the transfer of ancient carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and into the ground, creating the climate habitable to humans that we are placing in peril through the combustion of fossil fuels.
“Source” also has meaning within the context of the Land Art Generator Initiative and LAGI 2019. We were returning to the place that had first inspired us in 2008 to launch a global design competition for renewable energy as public art.
Sustainable design needs to respond to human culture, realizing that all communities require unique design solutions that respond to place, culture, and local environment. If we do not address the human element in our proposed solutions to the climate crisis, we risk alienating key stakeholders, slowing progress, and dividing society into camps of relative environmental activism. If instead, if we leverage the creativity of human culture in the advancement of technical solutions, we can inspire everyone about the greatness of a post-carbon world and bring about massive change.
While our culture is a reflection of our energy use, the way that we decide to produce and consume energy is also a reflection of our culture. To change one is to change the other. Often the solutions to climate change and resource scarcity are framed as scenarios in which the act of energy transition drives cultural shifts (we will need to conserve energy, use less material, limit our lifestyles), but the key to success may lie in understanding that culture has its own agency. In this equation, culture leads and transition follows.
We see the value in healthy competition to drive innovation. As more and more cities are able to demonstrate their commitment to sustainable and equitable development through high-profile projects that capture the public’s imagination, we will see a more rapid adoption and more aggressive integration of clean energy into the fabric of our cities. We will see a shift in popular opinion related to the implementation of these new technologies, from a position that is hesitant and unsure or “not-in-my-backyard,” to one filled with a sense of desire and longing.
At LAGI we invite interdisciplinary teams to develop creative solutions in a collaborative effort. Tens of thousands of designers and creatives, engineers and scientists, have participated directly in LAGI competitions. It is our hope that they will bring this way of thinking into their own work and that LAGI can be a seed that will grow to impact cities around the world in ways that we can’t yet imagine.