I have a feeling that many residents in the small city of Cloquet, Minnesota routinely drive by the R.W. Lindholm gas station, which opened in 1958, without having any idea that it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It wasn’t just any old gas station, but a one-of-a-kind structure that the great American architect envisioned would be central to his vision of the hypothetical Broadacre City, “a decentralized urban landscape that many have interpreted as a sort of super-suburbia,” with the gas station expanding beyond its traditional utility and taking on a larger social role in the city. While this vision thankfully never came to pass, certain elements of the design were adopted: “…it helped popularize the now ubiquitous overhang, and other elements (including an angled plan that afforded sight lines, and generous, slanted windows) were appropriated for Phillips 66 stations across the country.” Okay, class is over, but before you go someone needs to update Cloquet’s Wikipedia page to highlight this piece of architectural and design history. It’s worth bragging and boasting about!
A solar array, or a wind farm, can certainly have aesthetic appeal… but the visual interplay between the technology and its surroundings, or the beauty inherent in those panels and turbines themselves, usually isn’t high on the priority list of installers. The Bakken Museum in Minneapolis, which is dedicated to “exploring the mysteries of our electric world,” thought that beauty needed further exploration… and commissioned local artists to create works that “demonstrate a new, creative approach to using alternative energy sources.”
How do you get a group of urban high school students interested and involved in issues like climate change and environmental justice? Connecting it to the music they love is a good bet… and we’ve already seen how hip hop’s worked as a tool for engaging target audiences on topics ranging from local, healthy food to the damage created by plastic shopping bags.
Rickety carnival rides. Animal and agricultural exhibits. And fried… well, just about anything. State fair season is coming up, and future farmers, midway operators, and bands past their prime are ready to roll. At a few fairs around the country, you can add renewable energy vendors, green builders, and organic foodies to the mix: the greening of the state fair is slowly but surely underway.