A Smog-Fighting Billboard

A Smog-Fighting Billboard For Los Angeles?

           Vermont may have helped to protect the aesthetics of its natural landscapes through its state-wide billboard ban. But in Los Angeles — and possibly cities all over the world — billboards may actually become part of the natural landscape, and help to improve urban air quality as well.

The Architect’s Newspaper reports that a group of architects and engineers called Urban Air has developed a technique for transforming existing urban billboards to living, suspended bamboo gardens. Embedded with intelligent technology — i.e., sensors and water misters that ensure the plants are properly hydrated, should rain prove scarce — the UrbanAir billboard creates an open space in the urban skyline, and a place set aside for nature, even in heavily developed areas.

The billboard becomes both a work of art and a symbol of the integration of the natural and built environment  – as well as, of course, a practical tool for scrubbing dirty urban air. While the collective’s ambitions are global in scope, they aim to start with a billboard adjacent to LA’s 10 Freeway. That project is seeking crowdfunding via Kickstarter, giving Los Angelenos tired of both billboards and smog (as well as interested parties all over the world) the unique opportunity to fight the latter using the former.

As of Nov. 21, the group had raised around $34,of its $100,000 goal, with 20 days left in its campaign.

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Imagine floating, globally connected urban forests growing where billboards stand. Artist Stephen Glassman and his team are doing it.


     UrbanAir transforms existing urban billboards to living, suspended bamboo gardens. Embedded with intelligent technology, UrbanAir becomes a global node - an open space in the urban skyline… An artwork, symbol, and instrument for a green future.
Urban Air has been designed, engineered, and has secured the billboard to carry the flagship project. With your help, Urban Air will be towering above the Los Angeles freeways in the new year.

The vision doesn’t stop there. Upon a successful launch, it’s our plan and intention to transform the steel and wood of outdoor advertising into the infrastructure of urban sustainability in cities around the globe – actively, publicly, and collectively generating a green global future.

What has been done so far

        Urban Air was born as an artwork in the LA studio of artist Stephen Glassman. The image immediately sparked the interest of key vanguard professionals in related fields – engineering, technology, advertising, planning and business – and the Urban Air development team was born.

Urban Air garnered its first international recognition when it received the 2011 London International Creativity Award. Summit Media – a Los Angeles based billboard company - then volunteered to lend their support and donate prominent billboards along major LA thoroughfares to provide the launch pad for the first Urban Air prototype.

Since then we’ve been working intensely with structural and environmental engineers, planners, technologists, billboard fabricators, bamboo growers, plumbers and outdoor advertising specialists to design and produce a full scale working prototype that assures not only a successful single prototype, but also generates a system “kit” that enables any standard billboard to be easily transformed to a green, linked, urban forest.


         Working creatively on a large scale in the public realm is always a challenge. Lead Artist Stephen Glassman has a long history and substantial portfolio creating and producing high concept, large scale, structural artworks in the public domain. He understands navigating this frontier.

Billboards are a unique territory. We are fortunate to have the support and partnership of Summit Media. Through Summit, we have been working closely with licensed billboard fabricators and engineers that are specifically equipped to engineer, permit, and install custom billboards. Their expertise will be augmented by structural engineer Bruce Danziger of Arup – a premier global engineering firm that has engineered break through architectural landmarks around the world – from the Beijing Olympic Stadium to Seattle's Public Library. Stephen has collaborated with Buce and Arup on a half dozen prior projects.

The environmental sensors and intelligent technology is also a cutting edge territory, and for this Arup’s participation is again invaluable. Russell Fortmeyer is Arup’s senior sustainability and technology consultant. The technology we will be incorporating is all existing – it is only the context that is unique. Russell and Arup have many colleagues in this field that are excited to contribute. UrbanAir producer Steve Reiss and advisor Deborah Marton have long histories in environmental charitable development, and have worked with several technology companies who are excited to participate.

Like any authentic and vital artwork, the greatest risk and challenge UrbanAir faces is to create something that has never before existed – to embrace the unknown and create something from nothing. The key to UrbanAir’s success is its remarkable team – years of experience and proven expertise in cutting edge, civic scale projects. They are vanguard professionals inspired by bold challenges, and committed to creating a better world.

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