Forget Airplanes, Travel Via Cloud: Floating Zeppelin Network by Tiago Barros

Images: Tiago Barros

In a world where everything seems to operate at hyper-speeds (often at the expense of the environment), we're well aware of the apparent benefits behind such movements as "slow food" "slow cities" and "slow design." But what about "slow travel"?

To answer that question, from New York-based architect Tiago Barros comes this oddly intriguing proposal for a network of huge inflatable clouds that travel from place to place, riding on the predominant winds. Funny enough, this design was an entry in a competition for a high-speed rail network. Here's the designer's vision of what the future of air travel could be:

This project envisions a distinct approach towards moving around the United States being also a revival of the act of traveling. Why traveling at high speed? Why having the final destiny always defined? And why always departing and arriving on a tight schedule? Nowadays, everything is set and everyone is always running around. It is time to reconsider the act of traveling and start enjoying it accordingly.


The project, dubbed "Passing Cloud," is inspired by the zeppelins of yesterday and features a conglomeration of high-tensile nylon balloons, supported on the inside by a stainless steel framework, all of which give the impression of an enormous cloud. Passengers climb on with ladders, sit on top during travel and get off wherever the gigantic cloud lands.

Though it didn't win the "Life at the Speed of Rail" competition sponsored by the Van Alen Institute and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, the idea is deceptively simple: to question our society's addiction to speed, and to counter that insanity with travel that moves according to natural speeds.

Efficient, punctual and common-sensical? Probably not, especially since these cloud-trains has "no fixed time of arrival or place for arrival." But definitely cheaper, less energy- and resource-intensive than building lots of new infrastructure, less encroaching of wild habitats, and way less emissions and oil required than for airplane flights. Either way, we sorely need an alternative to the transport status quo as it is. In the end, Barros quips that

[t]he journey becomes the essence. Imagine traveling at wind speeds in a totally sustainable object that leaves no Human trace behind.

A worthy thought. See more of Barros' work on his site (he seems opposed to high-speed rail tearing up landscapes). See the other competition entries at the Van Alen Institute.

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Tags: Air Travel | Architects | Design Competitions | Trains

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