When New York officials announced that they were going to turn the Fresh Kills Landfill – a 2,200 acre site that was at one point the world's largest waste dumping ground – into the biggest new green space the city had seen in a century, more than a few eyebrows were raised.
However, some ten years after the landfill was first closed, Fresh Kills (subtly renamed Freshkills Park) now resembles a calm and serene network of prairies and wetlands, filled with scrub-like bush, low trees and meandering streams. There have even been reports that groups of local deer and osprey have made it their home, proving that all those years of waste dumping have not made the area completely uninhabitable.
In fact, there are a number of measures that have been put in place to help detoxify the land and attract wildlife back to the region. Methane extractors and flare stations have been installed to help deal with the build up of potentially dangerous gasses underground, and man made hills have been constructed to give the landscape a more naturally undulating layout. Certainly, to the naked eye, there isn't much to suggest the regions notorious past.
But simply being a pleasant place for a stroll isn't all that's planned for Freshkills. As well as being an area of parkland three times the size of Central Park, the architects of the project aim for it to be a hotspot for renewable energy generation and the latest pioneer of so-called 'aesthetic power plants'.
Aesthetic power plants are design concepts that, while still being green, are fundamentally attractive to look at and involve an innovative approach to the issue of electricity generation. The idea is one that has been pushed heavily by organizations such as the Land Art Generator Initiative, which runs a competition every two years to commission aesthetic power plant projects around the world.
The inaugural contest was held to find a power plant design for one of three pre-selected sites across the United Arab Emirates – the winner being these striking black pyramids in Abu Dhabi built from photovoltaic solar panels. 2012's contest, however, will shift its focus to Freshkills Park, and design submissions have been flooding in from groups of architects all over the globe.
Given the ingenious standard of entries submitted to the first edition of the LAGI competition, we can't wait to see some of the proposals put forward by next year's entrants. The winner will get their hands on $20,000 in prize money, as well as seeing their design transformed into reality.
How do you feel about landfill sites being turned into parks? Would you happily spend time in a park that used to be a waste dumping ground?