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L.A. architect Christophe Cornubert's carbon-dioxide cube debuts in Copenhagen

December 8, 2009 |  6:14 am

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You can make art to address any political subject, and the debate over climate change is certainly no exception, as a new futuristic installation by a Los Angeles architect proves.

In Copenhagen, where the United Nations' summit on global warming is currently underway, artists  unveiled on Monday what they are calling "The CO2 Cube," a three-story site-specific artwork that was designed by L.A.-based architect Christophe Cornubert.

The structure, pictured, sits on St. Jørgens Lake, near the city's Tycho Brahe Planetarium. Its creators said the cube represents the space that one metric ton of carbon dioxide would occupy if stored at standard atmospheric pressure -- specifically, a space that is the equivalent of 27 feet cubed, or 19,683 cubic feet.

The size of the installation is crucial: The average citizen of an industrialized country releases one metric ton of carbon dioxide per month, according to a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"A lot of the conference is buttoned up and behind closed doors. So we wanted a way to reach out to the public," said Mia Hanak, executive director of San Francisco-based  Millennium ART, which is one of the organizations involved with the cube's creation.

The other organizations include the U.N.'s Department of Public Information, Obscura Digital as well as Google and YouTube.

Visitors in Copenhagen don't enter the cube but instead walk along a moat, which runs around the structure's perimeter. The external surfaces of the cube serve as video screens that feature artwork as well as streaming news clips and other web content.

"It is an art piece first and foremost but it's also an art piece with a message," said Travis Threlkel, director of Obscura Digital, which coordinated much of the video technology for the installation. In all, there are currently three hours worth of video content, according to Threlkel.

"The CO2 Cube" was designed by Cornubert, whose architecture and design firm Push is located in L.A.'s MacArthur Park neighborhood.

The price tag for the cube is difficult to quantify since costs are spread across various parties that are contributing to its creation, according to Millennium ART.

"The CO2 Cube" is intended to be a carbon-neutral installation -- eventually. Those involved with it said that the artwork is currently running off of the local power grid but added that they are partnering with Terrapass to calculate the project's total footprint. Once the Copenhagen presentation is completed, they said they will look into different ways to make it a carbon-neutral project.

Plans are afoot for the cube (or various incarnations of it) to travel to other locations. Organizers said they have confirmed that it will appear at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai. There are also plans for a multi-city U.S. tour, but no dates or venues have been announced.

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-- David Ng

Photos: The CO2 Cube in Copenhagen. Credit: Joshua Brott

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