Every year, Metropolis Magazine runs a competition for emerging designers focused on utilizing innovative design as a tool to address and promote
"activism, social involvement and entrepreneurship." The competition selects a new theme each year to narrow the scope and sharpen the competitors' imaginations. This year, designers were required to address Energy -- "its uses, reduction, consumption, efficiencies, and alternatives."
Only one entry won the $10,000 grand prize, but Metropolis also publicized a strong list of runners-up, whose projects are well worth knowing about. (One runner-up comes from Worldchanging's own Dawn Danby and two of her colleagues from the Bainbridge Graduate Institute. Their project, Beeline is "an online virtual marketplace/transportation coordination system that connects local growers and retailers.")
The winning team, a San Francisco-based design collective called Civil Twilight, landed the grand prize with a project called Lunar-Resonant Streetlights -- streetlights specially designed to "sense and respond to ambient moonlight, dimming and brightening each month as the moon cycles through its phases." The lights would replace standard bulbs with LEDs and a photosensor, which work together to reduce energy consumption by creating only as much light as is needed according to the natural illumination of the moon. They also minimize light pollution by "utilizing the available moonlight, rather than overwhelming it," bringing stars back into the urban skyscape. It's a brilliant integration of a high-tech design and an ultra-low tech natural resource.
Civil Twilight's entire portfolio consists of projects that find a graceful and fruitful interrelationship between the natural and the constructed or technological. One of these is an adaptive reuse project employing mycology (or mycoremediation) to convert condemned wooden buildings into compost, and the building site into a garden plot. No demolition necessary.
Another building-related runner-up addressing land restoration and preservation in dense urban areas is Israel-based Geotectura's "i-rise" project, a "vertical, multi-story residential unit with an integrated infrastructure for generating renewable energy, collecting rainwater and treating liquid and solid waste based on zero-environmental impact technologies." The i-rise is a prefab structure with a very small footprint and the ability to be moved easily without scarring the land beneath. Its internal functions run in an efficient, mechanistic way, building sustainable systems into the home rather than tacking them on according to the wishes (and extra expenditures) of the residents. Geotectura's piece aims to address not only the ecological integrity of housing, but also the economic and social stratifications that emerge from the architecture of a neighborhood.
There are more than a dozen other inspiring projects from the 2007 Next Generation. Take a look at the list and find out what's possible when you combine good design, great imagination, and a healthy dose of competition.
How much would it cost to run a lunar-resonant street light thing.