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UrbanAir: Transforming billboards to floating urban gardens

Posting in Cities

A new Kickstarter campaign aims to transform billboards into suspended, floating forests.

Driving past miles of billboard, you see grinning men in suits touting insurance, the lastest car being promoted by smiling women in cocktail dresses, and enormous pictures of the burger you simply have to stop and taste.

Aside from wasted space, billboards do tend to dull the mind, constantly bombarded with advertising and images in shop windows, television and radio. But what if we used billboards to advertise something else -- like a green, economic future?

This is the concept behind UrbanAir. Artist Stephen Glassman wants to give Los Angeles drivers a new way to admire the scenery, by creating living, suspended bamboo gardens. Creating a Kickstarter campaign to try and crowdfund the dream of floating gardens above L.A. highways, Glassman wants to spur on this new use of valuable space through a partnership with Summit Media who will donate at least one billboard.

Since creating the first prototype, Glassman says:

"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."

Using bamboo -- which takes up little root space and is strong enough to withstand storms -- the UrbanAir team's blend of environmentalism and art does seem to have captured the imagination of the general public, many of which are now backing the project.

"If we [human beings] weren't so perversely whacky in the first place, such bizarre structures wouldn't exist," one backer said. "Yet thank you for re-imagining them to balance it out a bit!"

At the time of writing, the campaign has reached over $50,000 based on a goal of $100,000.

Image credit: Urban Air

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— By on November 28, 2012, 11:58 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure