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Re-conceiving under-utilised or obsolete spaces or objects into unique and playful urban places, is one of the latest fads in the world of urban design. A city must now be peppered with astro-turf laneways, shipping container bars and ‘pedestrianised’ railway lines to prove its credentials as truly liveable. 

But an artist from Los Angeles has taken the repurposing of urban objects to a new level in his reconception of the billboard.

Dubbed ‘Urban Air’, Stephen Glassman’s vision is to transform existing urban billboards into living, suspended bamboo gardens above LA’s infamous highway network. These billboards, when transformed from their generic commercial state into architectural planters filled with living bamboo trees, are intended to become a work of art. Each Wi-Fi-enabled Urban Air billboard contains misters to support the growth of the bamboo gardens. As the bamboo grows, it not only expands the ‘green realm’, but also absorbs air pollutants and urban heat, increasing biodiversity, and reducing night time light pollution.

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His initial Kickstarter campaign in 2012, raised over $100k to prototype the ‘Urban Air’ vision. Although a prototype is yet to be realised, the idea of repurposing one of the city’s greatest eyesores into a productive asset has gained a lot of attention around the world.

Read more about the project on Arup’s website here.

And not to be outdone by nature or art, scientists in Peru have developed a billboard panel which is able to purify 500,000m3 of urban air per day, or the equivalent of 1,200 trees. Watch their video here.

The Peruvians have also developed water producing billboards in Lima. There’s no end to their ingenuity.


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