Alessandro Pongan is a multifaceted artist and designer whose activity ranges from the design of concepts for special events as creative director, to set design and audiovisual direction, visual design and communication. Since 2017 he has been dedicated to artistic activity by developing a project, Totem, with a strong vocation for land art, public art and urban regeneration.
The Red Giant project was selected among the 65 finalist projects of Land Art Generator 2019, an international competition in partnership with the 24th World Energy Congress, the largest and most influential global energy event. The project was published in the book Return to the Source – New Energy Landscapes from the Land Art Generator Initiative Abu Dhabi, published by Prestel, which collects the most significant projects of this competition.
The Land Art Generator initiative (LAGI) was founded in 2008 to engage the world in an exploration of how art in public space can actively contribute to a sustainable future, and how renewable energy infrastructure can become a beautiful extension of human culture. Thanks to their innovation and creativity, LAGI design competition participants are inspiring people everywhere about the beauty and promise of a net-zero carbon future, and providing new ways of thinking about how we can integrate sustainable infrastructure into the cultural fabric of our cities.
The LAGI 2019 competition invited creatives to design an iconic work of art for a site in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, using renewable energy technology as a means of artistic expression to provide on-site energy production consistent with the master plan of the city. Masdar is the Arabic word for “source” and the name of the most ambitious low-carbon development project in the world. The area affected by the project consists of two separate plots of an important road artery of the city.
The work of Alessandro Pongan is organized around a central character: the Prono (prone, procumbent). We are faced with the invention of a contemporary archetype that to some extent establishes a dialogue with the Vitruvian Man drawn by Leonardo. The Prono is a character represented in different contexts, languages and formats, without ever losing his identity, even when joined by a series of collateral factors and figures. He is solid, geometric, archaic and pop at the same time. It resonates with the statues of Easter Island, of Mayan and Aztec imagery, but also Japanese manga and mecha, graffiti and comics. He spreads tangible spiritual energy, a sense of mystery and pursuit of the meaning of existence.
Like many archetypes, he has a dual nature. On all fours, a sign of sacrifice and subjugation, the typical posture of the oppressed. But at the same time an accumulator of energy. In the massive body, we sense the tension of a sprinter at the starting blocks. A creature utterly alert, waiting for the signal to leap forward. To break free of any constraints, any inhibition. It’s no coincidence that Prono reminds us of another mythological figure: Cronos, the Titan son of Uranus (sky) and Gaia (earth). Prono is the symbol of the potential redemption that lies within us. He bows on the ground, but gazes forward. Beyond the horizon.
Red Giant is an anthropomorphic landmark. The artist’s choice was to propose a work that could be realized with a realistic budget by imposing restrictions not required by the announcement, as to limit the footprint of the artefact to 1% of the available area, approximately 25.000 square meters of surface (300 m x 90 m), and to address the rest to a public park and recreational activities. The solution of connecting the two areas with a sort of square-bridge increases the usable surface and allows a continuous pedestrian and cycle path between those.
The heart of the park is definitely aimed at social activities, therefore, in addition to the panoramic square, the agora that bypasses the road artery, an open-air theater for evening shows and an underlying covered space used for cultural and leisure activities. entrances overlook the street. The technical systems, such as the central energy storage unit, are located in underground rooms contained by the foundations of the sculpture.
Since the competition focused on the creation of the artistic installation, a real project for the park was not studied in depth. However, a hint of this was made taking into account the urban fabric and creating paths for flows between the various areas of the site.

The Red Giant, 24 x 33 x 18 m, is clearly visible from afar, being placed in the center of the square at a height of 7 m above ground level, the highest point of the building is thus 25 m above the ground. The agora covers an area of 5400 square meters; under the 450-seat theater there is a multipurpose covered space of 1500 square meters with its accesses on the street.

The sculpture consists of a supporting structure in tubular steel to which photovoltaic glass surfaces are applied. The composition of faceted volumes offers a changing rhythm of transparencies and reflections, casting colored shadows.

The technical study took into account the climatic and geographical conditions of the place and the orientation of the sculpture to generate the calculation of energy generated by solar radiation.

The type of photovoltaic glass used provides a peak power that reaches values up to 42 kWp; the average of the area affected by the incidence of sunlight during the day is 1500 square meters. Red Giant was positioned so as not to be affected by the shadow of the surrounding buildings; for the particular geometry of the arrangement of the panels, the capacity factor used is 40%. Below is the calculation of the annual energy generated by the sculpture: 42 kWp x 8.760 h x 40% = 147,168 Mwh – CO2 emissions avoided: 63,573 – Annual Energy Generation: 147 Kwh.

The geometry of the surfaces allows to expand the area affected by the sun’s rays. In addition, photovoltaic glasses are able to acquire energy, not only from direct light, but also from indirect light coming from its bounce on the shapes of the structure and the surrounding environment.

A small part of the energy produced would be used to illuminate the sculpture at night. The Red Giant is equipped with low-consumption LED lighting tubes placed along the internal structure of the installation.

The design team is made up of Alessandro Pongan, artist and designer, by the designers Marco Denni and Emiliano Pongan who took care of scientific research and technical report and Alberto Magni for renderings.

Project details

Design: Alessandro Pongan
Project Location: Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Typology: Land art, sculpture
Design year: 2019
Collaborators: Marco Denni, Emiliano Pongan, Alberto Magni

Alessandro Pongan

Alessandro Pongan

In 1988 Alessandro Pongan founded the studio Officina Design in Milan, which still operates today. In 1993 – 1994 he spent long periods in Athens as an art director and set designer of television programs for Ant1, a private national broadcasting network. Thanks to these professional experiences, he was able to deeply explore the fields of graphic design, television, set design, computer animation, video production, web communications and installations, always making the force of design the central feature of his work. His imagery is clear, confident, pithy and filmic. Latin passion combined with Nordic rationalism.