Public Art Team realities:united Sends Smoke Rings as a Reminder of CO2 Emission

Rendering ©2010 by BIG

This post comes to you from Green Public Art

BIG architects, developed in collaboration with art studio realities:united, AKT, Topotek 1 and Man Made Land, has won an international competition to design a new Waste-to-Energy Plant for Copenhagen that doubles as a ski slope for Copenhagen’s citizens and a public art symbol of the city’s CO2 emission.

The new Waste-to-Energy plant will be an international model in the field of waste management and energy production, as well as an architectural landmark in the cityscape of Copenhagen. The project is the single largest environmental initiative in Denmark with a budget of 3,5 Billion DKK (approx. 658 million USD), and replaces the adjacent 40 year old Amagerforbraending plant, integrating the latest technologies in waste treatment and environmental performance. BIG’s progressive building design will turn the roof of the new facility into an ecological ski slope deepening the connection between the citizens of Copenhagen and redefining the relationship between the waste plant and the public.

Photo ©2000 by Jürg Alean

The public art component of the project, BIG VORTEX, designed by Berlin-based artists realities:united answers the question “What does a ton of CO2 look like?” The modified smokestack acts as a gentle reminder of the residues of waste burning. The gas will leave the smokestack as revolving gas clouds in the shape of smoke rings (toroidal vortex shape), which become visible due to the condensation of water in the flue gases as they slowly rise and cool, before slowly resolving into the air.

Each smoke ring, approximately 30 meters in diameter and 3 meters in height, constitutes exactly one ton of fossil carbon dioxide, which is added to the atmosphere. By using art to make the waste visible to the public the rather abstract pollution aspect becomes something the public can see and relate to.  On average the ring will remain stable for about 45 seconds, serving as a gentle reminder of the impact of consumption. At night, heat tracking lights will be used to position lasers onto the smoke rings turning them into glowing artworks over the city.

realities:united studio for art and architecture. E-Mail:

realities:united studio for art and architecture. E-Mail:


Project: Waste-to-Energy Plant

Client: Amagerforbraending

Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

Budget: 3,5 BL DKK; 650 MIL USD, 460 MIL EUR

Smoke Rings: approx. 30m diameter, 3 meter height, 1 ton Co2

Architect: BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group

Project Artist: realities:united, studio for art and architecture (Smoke Ring Generator), Jan Edler, Tim Edler, Erik Levander, Daniel Mock

Collaborators: AKT (Façade & Structural Consulting), Topotek 1/Man Made Land (Landscape)

BIG Team: Bjarke Ingels, David Zahle, Brian Yang, Jelena Vucic, Alina Tamosiunaite, Armor Gutierrez, Maciej Zawadzki, Jakob Lange, Andreas Klok Pedersen, Daniel Selensky, Gül Ertekin, Xing Xiong, Sunming Lee, Long Zuo

Rebecca Ansert, founder of Green Public Art, is an art consultant who specializes in artist solicitation, artist selection, and public art project management for both private and public agencies. She is a graduate of the master’s degree program in Public Art Studies at the University of Southern California and has a unique interest in how art can demonstrate green processes or utilize green design theories and techniques in LEED certified buildings.

Green Public Art is a Los Angeles-based consultancy that was founded in 2009 in an effort to advance the conversation of public art’s role in green building. The consultancy specializes in public art project development and management, artist solicitation and selection, creative community involvement and knowledge of LEED building requirements. Green Public Art also works with emerging and mid-career studio artists to demystify the public art process. The consultancy acts as a resource for artists to receive one-on-one consultation before, during, and after applying for a public art project.

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