Welcome to the Crystal, an inter-active museum about sustainability and cities. Located on the edge of the new Olympic redevelopment area, it is a centre for discussion and education about urban living: "how we live in cities, how we struggle with them, how we can make them more attractive, and balance environment, economy and quality of life".
Created and funded to the tune of £30 million by Siemens, a global technology company, it is meant to be an urban conference centre, as well as a technology and innovation centre.
The exhibition component seems to take up most of the building. It is aimed at schoolchildren, members of the public and tourists as well as politicians, experts and academics. It examines 9 different zones; with sections on healthy life, future life, creating cities, water, transport, going electric and urban security.
Although attendance was sparse on the day this TreeHugger visited, there seemed to be lots of intense discussion taking place amongst the people who were there.
Using much of Siemens’ own technology such as a staircase that captures heat and energy from people flow, every possible technological gimmick and gizmo has been employed. Upon entry you are issued a card which activates the exhibits. There were interactive displays, films, animations and installations.
This green living wall is in the ‘Clean and Green’ area which looks at waste and pollution.
The building itself is designed by Wilkinson Eyre and is supposed to represent crystals found in nature. Although ugly, it is meant to be one of the most sustainable buildings--in the world, according to their press. They say:
It is an all-electric building that uses solar power and ground source heat pumps to generate its own energy. It also stores electrical energy in a giant battery to ensure excess power can be saved for use when supply is low.
The building incorporates rainwater harvesting, black water treatment, solar heating and automated building management systems. The design of the building’s structure, including its glass, provides additional insulation and takes energy efficiency to a new level.
The building is essentially a glass angular structure. The exterior has three kinds of double glazing: transparent to catch the views and daylight, translucent for the solar and opaque. It reflects the clouds and weather which some have said lends it a "Darth Vader" quality.
The building is covered with an array of renewable technologies. On the roof there are photovoltaics and solar thermal, below are 200 geothermal pipes and behind the building is an energy centre with heat pumps that convert the geothermal energy for heating and cooling and a backwater recycling plant.
A big plus for the Crystal is its location - just five minutes from the subway and right next to the wondrous cable car (its stations are also designed by Wilkinson Eyre). It still offers the most spectacular views of London and the River Thames.