Many cities are threatening to become true blast furnaces in the coming years. Large cities in particular are heating up more and more as a result of climate change. The designer has now come up with a bizarre solution. He wants to cool the street canyons with artificial clouds, which also open up new spaces and make them useful.
Author: Michael Foertsch
It’s a sight set in a sci-fi and cyberpunk like universe blade runner or Western world would not look out of place. Large white cubes float between the canyons of the narrow streets. They just hang in the air like tied balloons – over streets, sidewalks, or next to giant skyscrapers bordering small parks. Strange constructions with their plump white shell resemble balloon animals a bit. And not by accident. These are buildings designed and constructed as lighter-than-air vehicles. They could both create additional space in large cities and provide a better climate.
The point is that [schwebenden] The structures can be programmed depending on the needs of the area
Behind the concept, called Oversky, is the architectural, research and design studio Framlab, based in Norway and the USA. Its founder, Andreas Tjeldflaat, has been interested in climate change for many years, and in particular its impact on the most populous places in the world – metropolitan areas inhabited by billions of people around the world. Due to the dense development, masses of concrete and asphalt to store heat, the lack of green areas and zones for fresh wind, they become heat islands. The temperature in the city center can be two to three degrees Celsius warmer than outside the city.
Some researchers fear the phenomenon will only get worse – with parts of cities such as Tokyo becoming uninhabitable during the summer months. Tjeldflaat wants to do something about it. “I can’t pinpoint the exact moment the project idea came up,” said 1E9. “There were different interests, points of reference and discussions that overlapped and then came together at some point to form the basis of this concept.” A concept that should make it possible to cool ever hotter cities in a sustainable and lasting way – without the use of electricity.
It is said that Oversky was primarily inspired by clouds. As the cloud moves across the sky, its shadow becomes noticeably cooler. And even if some of the mechanics have not been fully explained yet, they have a huge impact on the global climate. Tjeldflaat wondered how static clouds could be created that would return the local city vibe to a balance that people can tolerate. As the Norwegian designer says, the technology for such structures is quite available. And in the form of rigid airships – like the legendary airships. Unlike the airship, where the giant gas balloon is filled with gas, numerous smaller gas-filled balloons are inserted into the skeleton of the struts. The space between them is free and usable.
The idea of Tjeldflaat is therefore to produce cubes approximately ten meters wide that can be joined and joined using a modular system. They would be constructed of a lightweight but durable fabric, held in shape and bearing by a carbon and helium frame pumped into thin baffles. Not all cubes would have to stay in the air. Instead, individual cubes filled with numerous gas balloons are to serve as support units, which, when placed in appropriate places, ensure buoyancy of the entire construct. The idea is inspired not only by airships, but also by Cloud Nine, the brainchild of the legendary inventor Buckminster Fuller, who believed that entire cities could be contained in levitating spheres.
Since many floating cubes can be connected to form real boulevards or archipelagos, Tjeldflaat believes they can create new space in previously “unused airspace” in building canyons public place arise “The idea is that [schwebenden] structures for this purpose program depending on the needs in the area, ”says the designer. The cubes could be used to arrange classrooms, yoga studios and cafes. On the other hand, the roofs of the cubes could serve as floating walkways or bridges that could also connect buildings. Different houses could thus provide access. The floating clouds could also be accessed via a spiral staircase on the sidewalks, which would also serve as additional supports.
Thanks to Oversky you can open new spaces in cities practically from the air. That alone makes the concept worthwhile, says Tjeldflaat. But it should also cool the cities – not just the shadows cast by artificial clouds. And with the help of radiation cooling, which is possible thanks to the special coating of the outer shell of the cubes. The thin, foam-like nanomaterial, interwoven with countless tiny air pockets, is said to “reflect sunlight and heat radiation of a certain wavelength,” says Tjeldflaat. The radiation is projected into the atmosphere, from where it then escapes into space. Result: The heat is reduced and the area around the ankles is cooler.
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This technology is not only theoretical, it is already in use. Swiss scientists are experimenting with a similar concept of cooling glass plates a few degrees below ambient temperature without using electricity and thus extracting water from the air. And NASA uses it radiation coolingto keep James Webb telescope parts at optimal operating temperature. Tjeldflaat refuses to comment on how many degrees the joined oversky cubes can cool the city. But the effect would be noticeable. Because the items that radiation cooling when turned on, they can be up to five degrees colder than their ambient temperature. This property would also enable additional cooling options. For example, floating cubes can trap rainwater, pass it through thin tubes in the hull, and then throw it out from underneath in a cool mist.
The science is right, the materials are there, and we have technology too – everything is there.
Andreas Tjeldflaat himself can only shrug his shoulders, wondering if and how the Oversky could be implemented at some point. Today, flying dice are mostly a “speculative project” that aims to showcase the possibilities of existing technologies and concepts and motivate them to use – but it’s still doable. “The science is right, the materials are available, and we have the technology too – everything is there,” says Tjeldflaat. “Of course, the design needs further development, models and prototypes are needed to balance capacity and load limitations.” But there is really nothing to stop this science fiction scenario from becoming a reality at some point. Or other projects that refer to the Oversky rules. There is interest anyway, says Tjeldflaat.
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