Inspired by the 1984 German pop track “99 Luftballoons” by Nena, Winnipeg-based urban design firm Nadi Design Studio has developed an installation of 99 giant red balloons floating 100 feet off the ground, atop landfills. The conceptual project, aptly titled 99 Red Balloons, proposes to not only draw attention to the beauty that arises from accumulated waste piles but also to promote clean energy.
While each of the eye-catching balloons function as waste site markers, they are also photovoltaic solar generators. They are said to collect enough cumulative energy to power 4,500 homes, annually. The massive 50-foot tall by 40-foot wide balloons themselves are made of an organic resin membrane and lined with transparent organic solar cells developed by MIT. The structures are supported by resin poles that allow the installation pieces to sway, like real balloons, but are securely affixed to the ground with a steel base.
Through liquid crystal technology, the balloons also have the engaging ability to switch from an opaque red color to transparent, exposing the inner solar harvesting systems. This visual alteration is triggered through human interaction with sensors lacing specific pathways on the ground. The innovative design concept was just named one of four winners at this year's Land Art Generator Initiative Competition. The team behind the project led by Emeka Nnadi includes Scott Rosin, Meaghan Hunter, Danielle Loeb, Kara McDowell, Indrajit Mitra, Narges Ayat and Denis Fleury.