Terracotta has been around for a long time. Though we use the Italian word (literally meaning "baked earth") for it, its use dates back to ancient times and ancient cultures that have been using this kind of clay-based ceramic for pottery, tiles and low-tech cooling devices of all kinds for millennia, thanks to its porous nature.
Wanting to create a low-tech air conditioner using terracotta, New Delhi based Ant Studio created this sculptural installation that also serves to cool the ambient air when water flows over it. Designed by architect and Ant Studio founder Monish Siripurapu as a beautification project for an electronics factory, the piece consists of many terracotta tubes that have been arranged together in a somewhat spherical form using a metal framework.
Siripurapu explains that he was drawing upon traditional materials and building techniques, as well as utilizing the ancient concept of evaporative cooling in the design:
As an architect, I wanted to find a solution that is ecological and artistic, and at the same time evolves traditional craft methods.
The installation was conceived as a cheaper alternative to electrical air conditioning; the factory wanted to keep its employees cool and comfortable but could not afford a big electrical AC system. With this terracotta intervention, as water is poured and cycled over the terracotta (in this case, it's electronically pumped), the porous clay absorbs the liquid, and as it slowly evaporates, the air around it cools down 6-10 degrees Fahrenheit.
There's a wealth of knowledge and possibilities in traditional materials and ways of building things, and modern designers are increasingly looking to the past as a point of reference to help solve today's problems in an energy-efficient and environmentally responsible way. Terracotta is one of these potential avenues for deeper exploration: earth is an abundant material and has numerous advantages over man-made stuff. In this case, this striking terracotta air cooler will be refined further in the future, says Siripurapu:
I believe this experiment worked quite well functionally. Findings from this attempt opened up a lot more possibilities where we can integrate this technique with forms that could redefine the way we look at cooling systems, a necessary yet ignored component of a building’s functionality. Every installation could be treated as an art piece.
To see more, visit Ant Studio.