Cloud Tower To Float Over London for 2012 Olympics


all images courtesy of the CLOUD | www.raisethecloud.org
Discovery News brings us the The Cloud, an observation tower made of glowing spheres anchored by lightweight, transparent towers. Designed by Carlo Ratti, head of the MIT SENSEable Cities Laboratory, it is "is a new kind of architectural landmark that will be built through grassroots fundraising and social networking efforts."

From the press release, we learn that other members of the design team include artist Tomas Saraceno, digital designer Alex Haw, lightweight-structures expert Joerg Schleich, engineering group Arup, landscape architects Agence Ter and the Internet company Google. Those advising the team include writer Umberto Eco and and MIT professor and artist Antoni Muntadas.

"Our main idea is to apply to architecture some of the distributed processes that are currently revolutionizing the digital world," says Professor Ratti. "For instance, we would like the Cloud to become a symbol of global ownership built through a bottom up fundraising effort."

The Cloud will also be "a vast, collective energy-harvesting effort," explains 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 breaking, 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."

It is made with a giant tensegrity mast in the middle, with a double helical ramp for cyclists and pedestrians to take a very long ride. it looks like an engineering challenge, to put it mildly; however Joerg Schlaich is confident.

Having worked on lightweight structures for many decades, we can easily build this great CLOUD, on budget and on time for 2012!

Many tall towers have preceded this, but our great achievement is the high degree of transparency, the minimal use of material and the vast volume created by the spheres- all on exceedingly slender columns.

The spheres are inflatatable;

Each inflatable has its own air pump that controls air pressure level. All pumps are networked, thus forming a distributed, self-regulating system. Each pump will generate energy by letting air in and out during the daily heating and cooling cycles due to solar radiation. Inflatables on the periphery of the cloud are insulated with nanogel and kept hotter through internal resistors - so that they can float freely in air.


The remaining energy for the Cloud will be produced by thin film photovoltaics printed on inflatable membranes, doubling as solar shading in the summer in order to preserve maximum internal thermal comfort inside. It is expected that this will collect 200 MWh per year, making the Cloud not only zero emission but effectively 'below-zero emission' (the Cloud will be a net producer of energy to the East London community).

Professor Ratti is quoted in the press release:

"Our main idea is to apply to architecture some of the distributed processes that are currently revolutionizing the digital world," says Professor 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 "cloudraising" effort will be supported by platforms such as Facebook and Twitter; Google will provide advertising on YouTube and in search results.

Whew, I was worried that it would be a long, difficult climb. More at Raise the cloud

Tags: London

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