Air-conditioning units are like the acne of apartment buildings. But not only are they ugly; they also demand quite a bit of electricity, which too often results in the burning of fossil fuels. In order to highlight the issue, one artist decided to make AC units unavoidable—by placing 45 of them in the bustling Serbian capital of Belgrade, where people couldn't help but look.
After scavenging dozens of air-conditioning units from the trash, artist Marlene Hausegger constructed an air-conditioner igloo in Belgrade's busy Republic Square. The installation lasted for much of May, and invited viewers to cool down inside the unsightly heap. The purpose, she says, was to get people to start thinking about their own personal desire to stay cool, versus the overall energy use and architectural makeup of the city.
"It's about finding the balance between individual needs and collective responsibility," Hausegger wrote Co.Exist in an email. "Today almost every city is dealing with micro-climatic effects."
Recent research also suggests that, in addition to contributing to worsening air quality, air-conditioning units can actually exacerbate the urban heat island effect. In Phoenix, Arizona, waste heat that steams off the units could actually increase the temperature of the city by up to a couple of degrees Fahrenheit, researchers found.
Some of the viewers were angered by the presence of the air-conditioning units together in a public place.
"Some people got angry, because I put all this trash in the middle of the pedestrian area," she wrote. "Some people liked it, because you could chill out inside like in a little shelter and smoke or drink. Some others started a discussion about climate change on a Serbian blog. That's why I love to work in public space, because you get an immediate response from passersby."
After her three-month artist-in-residence stint in Belgrade, Hausegger has relocated to California, where she recently installed a roadside sculpture built out of bike reflectors. "Like the igloo installation, it can also lead to reflection about us and about our planet," she wrote.