Winnipeg urban design firm attracts New York attention

Oct 25, 2012 | Corporate Member News

A Winnipeg urban design firm has attracted international attention for its proposal to float 99 giant red balloons above a former New York landfill site in an installation that would generate clean energy while artfully reminding people that something beautiful and productive can come out of garbage.

The former 2200-acre landfill – with a Manhattan skyline – currently harvests methane gas from garbage percolating under its grassy hills. Some of the unused gas is released from dozens of small vents, and Nadi Urban Design Studio has proposed floating enormous red solar balloons over each vent. The proposed 99 balloons would be 50 feet tall (as high as a five-storey building) and 40 feet wide and would float 100 feet above visitors’ heads, each tethered by a flexible pole and generating approximately 14,000 megawatt-hours of electricity.

The Winnipeg “99 Red Balloons” plan was selected as one of the four best ideas in the world from 250 submissions and 39 countries. The Land Art Generator Initiative asked interdisciplinary designers from around the world to design a land art installation that would make Freshkills Park (the former Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island) a tourist attraction that would also harness clean energy.

Each of Nadi’s balloons would be lined with hi-tech solar panels. Collectively they would produce enough renewable energy to power 4,500 homes a year. “The balloons, designed to interact playfully with park visitors, would turn from bright red to transparent as visitors triggered sensors simply by walking along special pathways nearby,” says Nadi principal and founder Emeka Nnadi.

“Every major city has a former landfill site that can be a great public park and can capture clean energy – even the Brady Road Landfill or Kilcona Park,” says Nnadi.

The top four designs – including the “99 Red Balloons” – were unveiled last night at a New York gallery and will travel in an exhibit from New York to Dubai. Nadi Urban Design Studio was the only Canadian firm to place in the top four, and proves Nnadi’s belief that Winnipeg is an international contender when it comes to urban design and architecture.

A graduate of the University of Manitoba Department of Landscape Architecture in 2000, Nnadi said back then he felt he had to leave Winnipeg to pursue his career. He moved to Chicago upon graduation where he worked for Smith Group JJR, one of the largest architecture firms in Chicago. He returned to Winnipeg a few years ago and worked for Smith Carter Architects and Engineers before opening his own boutique landscape architecture, urban design and interior design firm.

“I’m convinced that there is plenty of world-class design talent right here in Winnipeg.  There is a lot of new excitement and energy in this City, much more so than even just a decade ago. I’m proud to be a small part of Winnipeg’s positive evolution, and delighted to participate in the global challenge to make sustainability beautiful and even sometimes playful,” said Nnadi, who is also a certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Accredited Professional.

The Nadi design team for “99 Red Balloons”, led by Emeka Nnadi, includes Scott Rosin, Meaghan Hunter, Danielle Loeb, Kara McDowell, Indrajit Mitra, Narges Ayat and Denis Fleury.

See the “99 Red Balloons” proposal at  http://landartgenerator.org/LAGI-2012/99009900/

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