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recipient of the 2016 SXSW Eco Award for Place by design
Northern Spark 2016

Phase change

Saturday June 11 2016 | 9:00pM - 5:26AM | W River Parkway & Portland Ave, MPLS


Phase Change creatively re-presents the effects of climate change through an engaging and dynamic spatial construction of melting ice. The ephemeral installation consists of 12,000 pounds of ice harvested from Lake Calhoun (Dakota name “Bde Maka Ska”) in March 2016 and stored passively from March through June. This sculptural ice form faces a lattice of infra-red lamps that are programmed to fluctuate based on data derived from climate change research. The heat produced by the lights corresponds to historical and projected climate change data and melts the sculpture according to three different climate change scenarios: a pre-industrial simulation that depicts climatic conditions as if the industrial era never happened; the present day scenario; and the “worst case” scenario that demonstrates the effects of the most extreme climate change forecasts.

local inspiration

First celebrated in response to a New York reporter who deemed the city “another Siberia, unfit for human habitation” in 1885, the Saint Paul Winter Carnival, which was created to showcase Minnesota’s winter beauty, has become a regional staple and a time-honored tradition.


Futures North constructed Phase Change with an awareness of the influence that public art can have on issues of social importance. As a creative visualization of environmental data, Phase Change draws attention to the looming issue of climate change that threatens the world’s population. In this regard, Phase Change is comparable to a handful of public art projects that have recently sought to draw attention to climate change.


The harvest

The ice used in Phase Change was harvested from Lake Calhoun during preparations for the annual Polar Plunge. It was then stored passively in an ice house from March through June.

As a piece of public art, Phase Change was created to engage people in a dialogue on looming climate issues. With a design that encouraged encounter and conversation, Phase Change was created in a way to promote dialogue with the community on this issue of global concern.


Phase Change was made possible by the contributions and support of numerous individuals and organizations. We would like to recognize their efforts here.

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