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Rutgers professor uses lichen to help cities go green
Date:10/25/2011

CAMDEN -- In this era of environmental consciousness, many buildings are being outfitted to "go green." A Rutgers-Camden professor is taking the term quite literally.

Elizabeth Demaray, an associate professor of fine arts, is cultivating lichen on the sides of New York City skyscrapers to counteract the lack of native vegetation found in the city. Her "Lichen for Skyscrapers Project" was featured as part of New York's Art in Odd Places Festival from Oct. 1-10 and is currently on view as a site-specific installation on 14th Street between Union Square Park and the Hudson River.

"Metropolitan centers figure into local temperatures in an interesting way," Demaray says. "They are sometimes referred to as 'urban heat islands' because they create heat and they trap heat. A large part of this process is due to the materials that we build with and the actual architecture of the buildings that we create."

Demaray says one of the ways to reduce heat in these cities is to cultivate lichen, which forms a protective barrier, insulating its supporting building from harmful elements. It can lower cumulative temperatures by absorbing sunlight and reflecting heat due to its light color palate while making oxygen and creating green space on the sides of buildings.

A versatile combination of fungi and algae, lichen does not have roots and grows vertically on porous surfaces. It thrives at high altitudes, where it is often the only form of vegetation and can withstand extreme periods of draught by absorbing water out of the air.

Demaray "plants" the lichen by painting lichen slurry, a watery mixture, on the sides of the buildings in patterned, geometric shapes. These plantings allow viewers to watch the organic lines of the lichen slowly outgrow the manmade lines of the patterns.

"A lot of my work sort of deals with American culture in one way or another and a number of the pieces often end up in the category of art and science
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Contact: Ed Moorhouse
ejmoor@camden.rutgers.edu
856-225-6759
Rutgers University
Source:Eurekalert

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