November 30, 2009
Interactive ‘Cloud’ Unveiled For London Olympics
A team of leading architects and engineers has just unveiled designs for the Cloud -- a landmark structure to commemorate London's role as host of the 2012 Olympics. The lightweight transparent tower, composed of a "cloud" of inflatable, light-emitting spheres, would create a spatial, three-dimensional display in the skies over London, fed by real time information from all over the world.
The structure is "a new form of collective expression and experience and an updated symbol of our dawning age: code rather than carbon," said Carlo Ratti, head of the MIT SENSEable Cities Laboratory and one of the project leaders.
Other members of the design team include artist Tomas Saraceno; digital designer Alex Haw; lightweight-structures expert Joerg Schleich; and the companies Arup, Agence Ter and Google. Those advising the team include writer Umberto Eco and artist Antoni Muntadas.
"Our main idea is to apply to architecture some of the distributed processes that are currently revolutionizing the digital world," said Ratti. "For instance, we would like the Cloud to become a symbol of global ownership built through a bottom up fundraising effort."
The size of the Cloud will not be set in advance, but it will evolve based on the level of contributions received. The global "cloud raising" effort will be supported by platforms such as Facebook and Twitter; Google will provide advertising on YouTube and in search results.
The Cloud will also be "a vast, collective energy-harvesting effort," says Alex Haw. "People can choose to ascend the Cloud on foot or bicycle; the energy that it would take to descend the Cloud is converted, on the way down, into electricity through elevators with regenerative braking, similar to those that are present in hybrid cars.
"The people's energy, coupled with solar energy collected through on-site and off-site photovoltaic cells and various energy saving strategies will allow us to reach carbon neutrality, whereby the Cloud produces all the energy it uses."
The structure of the Cloud is an innovation in and of itself. "Many tall towers have preceded this, but our achievement is the high degree of transparency, the minimal use of material and the vast volume created by the sphere -- all on exceedingly slender columns, stabilized by a cable net such as the one I built in Stuttgart in 2001," says Joerg Schleich.
The LEDs in the Cloud, fed by real time information, will be viewable from all over London, displaying information to the city and beyond. Moving inside the Cloud "will be like floating inside a three-dimensional display animated by information feeds that could include energy use, spectator numbers, decibel levels, medal updates, transport patterns, mobile phone activity, Internet traffic, and others," says Ratti.
"The Cloud develops our ongoing interest in the idea of the 'civic-scale smart meter', acting as a real-time feedback loop on collective urban activity," says Dan Hill of Arup.
The Cloud was initially designed for the 2012 Olympic Park, although other sites in London are also currently being explored. The team states that no public funding will be required. "We can build our Cloud with 5 million pounds or 50 million," says team member Walter Nicolino. "The flexibility of the structural system will allow us to tune the size of the Cloud to the level of funding that is reached."
The Cloud team at the MIT Senseable City Laboratory is composed of:
Carlo Ratti, Assaf Biderman, Mauro Martino, E Roon Kang, working together with Walter Nicolino and Giovanni de Niederhausern.
The Cloud team includes: Artist Tomas Saraceno, digital designer Alex Haw, lightweight-structures expert Joerg Schleich, Arup, Agence Ter, Studio FM, and GMJ.
Advisors to design the team include: Umberto Eco, Marco Santambrogio, Chris Bangle, Giuliano da Empoli, Antoni Muntadas, William Mitchell, Paul Richens, Gianluca Salvatori, Caterina Ginzburg, Liza Fior, and Margo Miller.
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