For Olympic Games, London dreams of a Cloud castle
The Cloud, an ambitious structure planned for 2012 Olympics, has airy spheres, spiral walkways, data projection.
A group of architects, artists, and other big thinkers are certain that they don’t have their heads in a cloud as they plan what could be the most startling structure to emerge from the London Olympic Games of 2012.Skip to next paragraph
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Called simply “the Cloud,” the monument would consist of two slender towers rising hundreds of feet into the air. Atop the twin spires float digital displays and viewing platforms for the public, who would climb up by foot or bicycle using spiral ramps wrapped around one of the towers. The summit would also feature giant inflated plastic spheres, some of which visitors could enter. Real-time information about the Games and the surroundings would be displayed by Google.
In an emerging century with more and more online experience, the Cloud aims to form a connection from the virtual world to the real world, “from the world of bits to the physical world, the world of atoms,” says Carlo Ratti, head of the SENSEable Cities Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., and a member of the international team working on the project. Other players include Arup, the architectural firm that designed the Sydney Opera House. Umberto Eco, the Italian philosopher and popular novelist, is serving as an adviser.
The Cloud team wants both the finished product, and the way it is conceived and financed, to be revolutionary. While traditional monuments emphasize their grandeur and permanence by expressing a sense of mass and weight, the Cloud “upturns the monumental tradition” with its airy, almost ephemeral design, says Sarah Goldhagen, architecture critic for The New Republic.
“I think the idea is incredibly cool,” she says. Ms. Goldhagen, who also edits an academic journal on modern architecture, is one of three experts the Monitor asked to look at the plans for the Cloud, which are posted online at raisethecloud.org.
The Cloud is designed to be “carbon neutral,” creating the energy it needs to operate from the use of regenerative brakes (similar to those used on hybrid cars). While visitors put in the initial effort by climbing the monument, the Cloud scheme then produces electricity as an elevator lowers visitors back to the ground. Solar panels will also generate electricity.
An Internet-based effort
The design team, which has met only once, last summer, includes members in Britain, Germany, Italy, Australia, and the United States. It mostly works over the Internet with little formal structure, though Professor Ratti at MIT is acting as a coordinator.