Digital cloud plan for city skies
By Jonathan Fildes
Technology reporter, BBC News
A giant "digital cloud" that would "float" above London's skyline has been outlined by an international team of architects, artists and engineers.
The construction would include 120m- (400ft-) tall mesh towers and a series of interconnected plastic bubbles that can be used to display images and data.
The Cloud, as it is known, would also be used an observation deck and park.
The unconventional structure was originally envisaged as a centre piece of the city's Olympic village.
The building draws inspiration from the work of Tomas Saraceno
Its designers plan to raise the funds to build it by asking for micro-donations from millions of people.
"It's really about people coming together to raise the Cloud," Carlo Ratti, one of the architects behind the design from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) told BBC News.
"We can build our Cloud with £5m or £50m. The flexibility of the structural system will allow us to tune the size of the Cloud to the level of funding that is reached."
The size of the structure will evolve depending on the number of contributions, he said.
Paola Antonelli, senior curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York who has seen the design described it as a "sculptural spectacle" and "a celebration of technology".
The Cloud was shortlisted in a competition set up by London Mayor Boris Johnson.
The mayor has committed to build a tourist attraction in the Olympic Park "with a legacy for the east end [of London]".
Other finalists are thought to include the former Turner prize winner Anish Kapoor and Antony Gormley, the designer of the Angel of the North.
The mayor is still in the "process of deciding" which design will be commissioned, according to a spokesperson.
However, the team, which also includes the writer Umberto Eco and engineers from Arup, has decided to push ahead and publish details of its design.
The structure draws on work by artist Tomas Saraceno, a German-based designer who has previously shown off huge inflatable sculptures.
It is envisaged that the spheres would be made of a plastic known as Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), the material used to build the Beijing Aquatic Centre.
The different spheres would act as structural elements, habitable spaces, decoration and LCD screens on which data could be projected.
"We could provide a custom feed of… searches made by Londoners during the Olympics to give a real time 'barometer' of the city's interests and mood," said Google, one of the supporters of the project, which has also offered to provide the information feeds.
The team also envisage projecting weather information, spectator numbers, race results or even images of the Olympic Torch on to the building.
Ramps, stairs and lifts would carry people to the top of the structure to look out over the city.
The inflatable elements of the building would sit on top of slender, lightweight towers, stabilised by a net of metal cables.
Damping technology, similar to that used in Japanese skyscrapers to resist earthquakes, would prevent the towers being buffeted by the wind.
The Killesberg Tower in Germany is built using similar principles
"Many tall towers have preceded this, but our achievement is the high degree of transparency, the minimal use of material and the vast volume created by the spheres," said professor Joerg Schleich, the structural engineer behind the towers.
Professor Schleich was responsible for the Olympic Stadium in Munich as well as numerous lightweight towers built to the same design as the Cloud.
The structure would also be used to harvest all the energy it produces according to Professor Ratti.
"It would be a zero power cloud," he said.
As well as solar cells on the ground and inside some of the spheres, the lifts would use regenerative braking, similar to that in some hybrid cars.
That way, the designers say, potential energy from visitors to the top of the tower can be harnessed into useful electricity.
The team have launched a fundraising website called raisethecloud.org and are now looking for a site for the tower.
Google has already offered to provide free advertising for the so-called "cloud-raising" effort.
The firm has offered a sponsored link at the top of the page advertising a "£1 for 1 pixel" concept to people who search for terms relevant to London 2012.
"It will be a monument to crowd-sourcing," said Professor Ratti.
據國外媒體報導，倫敦的標志性建築不少，如今，美國 麻省理工學院和 Google 正考慮為倫敦奧運村興建一個 超現代的建築「數字雲」。
美國麻省理工學院「感知城市」實驗室 (SENSEable City Lab) 正在為這一建築項目尋找資金，該實驗室還 表示， Google 和全球最大的工程咨詢公司、英國 Arup 公司將加入設計團隊。義大利著名作家翁貝托‧艾柯 (Umberto Eco) 也是該項目的顧問。
新華網報導，這個最初被列為倫敦奧運村的中心建築包 括高達 120 米的鐵架，頂端安裝一系列相互連接的塑 料泡狀圓球，並可以顯示各種圖像和數據。遠遠望去， 就好像一團雲彩矗立在鐵塔之上，加之這些「雲彩」能 展示數字化圖文信息，因此被稱作「數字雲」 (Digital Cloud) 。
這一設計被倫敦市長約翰遜選中，作為倫敦奧運公園建 築的備選方案，其它還有幾個建築也在考慮之中，最終 的結果尚未揭曉。不過，「數字雲」得到了不少人的青 睞，有關方面甚至推出網站，面向普通民眾籌集捐款， 希望將這一設計變為現實。
設計者之一的卡洛‧拉蒂 (Carlo Ratti) 說，我們建 造這個「雲」的費用可以是 500 萬英鎊、也可以是 5000 萬，由於建築結構靈活多變，這樣我們可以根據 籌集到的資金來決定到底修建多大的雲。
新浪科技指出，「雲」的表面使用的建築材料是類似於 北京奧運會「水立方」的膜狀結構物，為了讓又細又高 的支撐鐵架更穩固，設計者借用日本高樓建築的防震技 術，使其能經得住風雨。
負責提供圖文數據的 Google 表示，我們可以提供在倫 敦奧運會期間大家最關心的搜索信息，然後將其投放到 數字雲上，讓人們了解到此時此刻人們感興趣的是什麼 。
除了設計獨特外，「數字雲」還融入最先進的環保技術 ，確保這是一個「零排放的雲」。 此外，「數字雲」 也是遊客觀光和休閒的好去處，通過電梯、樓梯或者斜 坡登頂，就可以鳥瞰倫敦全貌。