Wordmark of Dan Zimmerman

Date:October 24, 2012

Spiral Elegy for Freshkills Landfill in New York

Spiral Elegy:

The waste of our cities.
Our cities as fossils.

Our fossils as links to the past and poignant reminders of where we have come from.
The ecology of the place leads to the ecology of the process. The ecology of the city relates to the ecology of the landfill. The ecology of the landfill relates to the ecology of the Spiral Elegy.

The waste of our cities is the bone and marrow of our landfills. Our collective refuse has and will continue to become the fossils of our generation unless we can create solutions to our 21st Century energy crisis.

Spiral Elegy is a site-specific project that will include three intervention sites taking place at the three topographical centres of Fresh Kills North and East Park. Each intervention is a tiered spiral with photovoltaic cells and a space for natural infrastructure around the perimeter, with a pedestrian walkway that leads viewers to the centre of the installation. Spiral Elegy will power up to 54 homes upon initial implementation, and will be capable of powering 180 homes upon further site development.

Spiral Elegy seeks to marry function and form with artful integration. The intersection of conceptual idealism, artful aesthetics and pragmatic form are perfectly embodied in the muse of our elegiac spiral, the nautilus shell. The nautilus has been referred to as a living fossil, as its efficient and pragmatic form has been constant for millions of years. The waste of our landfills is the fossils of our civilization. The waste that became Fresh Kills landfill was collectively and democratically created by the city of New York, her citizens and her visitors; a collective byproduct of our consumer nature. Buried beneath the reclaimed land are the remnants of a city past.

Spiral Elegy gradually rises from the shadows and draws pedestrians intimately into itself through a walkway that is augmented by natural infrastructure around it. On top of each of the three intervention sites viewers find themselves on top of a viewpoint that that allows them to look back on the city of New York, the Manhattan skyline and the beauty of Fresh Kills Park. This unique viewpoint combines an urban metropolis and green space into one cohesive landscape. There is a moment of quiet contemplation as the viewer literally stands on the history of New York while simultaneously observing the city as she moves and breathes today. As the landscape darkens Low Energy LED lighting along the walkway creates a safe and friendly night pedestrian experience while creating minimal light pollution as to not disrupt sensitive ecosystems. From above Fresh Kills Park the Spiral Elegy will appear as illuminated terrestrial constellations.
Spiral Elegy’s curved facade will be outfitted with Copper-Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) photovoltaic cells, which have a conversion efficiency of 20% and will be capable of powering 54 homes from the initial 3 intervention sites. Further site development could yield energy production that exceeds 180 homes. NANOSOLAR CIGS photovoltaic panels have a high absorption coefficient and can be manufactured onto very thin foil substrates allowing for flexible application and lower productions costs.

Spiral Elegy is the ultimate in site specificity because of its gradual rise to prominence, which ensures that the integrity of the landfill cap is preserved. These gradual changes in elevation ensure footing and cement structures do not permeate the landfill membrane. Each of the 3 sites are built within a ninety by fifty meter area as to not interfere with the off gas capture infrastructure.

Materials for the construction of Spiral Elegy will include locally sourced concrete and reclaimed fill recovered from local construction sites as basements are excavated.
The entire basis of Fresh Kills Park is a series of designed relationships and processes that enable certain ecology to come develop and continue to develop into the future. Spiral Elegy enables dynamic processes and interventions using a design that parallels and expands on existing themes that went into the Fresh Kills reclamation process. Spiral Elegy is responsible to local vernacular by augmenting natural infrastructure through the extension of existing meadows atop the structure. The vegetation will maintain itself with little human maintenance and will provide increasingly productive energy returns as the site develops. The natural infrastructure embodied within the site will create a rich and diverse habitat conducive to plant and animal life.

Spiral Elegy is inherently optimistic.

The installation attempts to show the humility of humans- to admit a mistake and learn from it in a positive way. Although the conversation on sustainability has arisen from years of ignorance and convenience, the important part is the conversation is taking place. Spiral Elegy attempts to provoke dialogue on what lies beneath Fresh Kills while still offering solutions to a new clean energy future. It is a humble, honest retrospective on our past while working towards a moment in time where ecological systems, social sustainability, human habitation and waste, energy resource generation, and thoughtful aesthetics all come together for a shared experience.

Dan Zimmerman
Mackenzie Page
Aidan Wong
Courtney Lawson
Michael Glaser