The history of Olympics and Expos is one of heaviness – of mass and monumentality and conspicuous expenditure on immovable objects whose legacy has occasionally endured, but have always been outdated. Our most extraordinary contemporary feats of engineering are stealthier, more extensive and more invisible than these traditions of glass and brick and steel: Code rather than Carbon.
The Cloud proposes a new form of monument – a new form of collective expression and experience, and an updated symbol of our dawning age. It proposes an entirely new form of observation deck, high above the Olympics – from which one can not only see the whole of London, but the whole of the world, immersed in the euphoric gusts of weather but also immersed within that new, pressing and endlessly compelling environment in which we increasingly congregate – the digital sublime.
It is the atmosphere itself – the elements and the data waves flowing through them – that truly evokes the ultimate Cloud, and the electronic-analogue sublime of a digital experience floating above the city.
The principal effects of the Cloud are generated from their context – from the aerial sea of swarming data, from the diverse populations of London, the UK and the wider string of global villages, and from the seamless stretch of weather that unites us all.
The structure is comprised of a filigree central array of columns – servicing as circulation systems dropping from the sky like the tendrils of a banyan tree system.
These spread and flower at high altitude into a series of lightweight grille decks within a dense aggregation of transparent inflated spheres, which in turn lead to a series of clustered perimeter observation decks where visitors can emerge from protected enclosures to walk “above the clouds” – multiple datum’s within the data. At the very edges, small aggregates of cloud hover and disperse, their positions variable and controllable through the temperature of the inside air, enabling the overall form of the Cloud to recompose and reassemble at will. The design could numerically and geometrically reference both the number of local London villages, UK counties, EU states, Olympic participants or wider populations, its numbers developing a language constantly re-visualizing and re-describing our contemporary world. The inflatables are saturated with an LED information system which densities locally into lightweight info-screen hotspots where visitors can navigate information about the immediate surroundings. The luminosity and air pressure of each sphere is independently controlled –– giving rise to the networked, self-organizing Cloud.
Athletes and audiences from all around the world converge at Stratford; the Cloud reconnects us all back to our source, our states, our ground and air and essence, meshing the world through the democracy of both communal visceral experience, and an immersion in crowd-sourced data.
People can choose to ascend to the Cloud by foot or bicycle – gaining the status of everyday Olympians, each individual footstep contributing to a vast collective energy-harvesting effort.
The Cloud addresses our twin attention spans of the short-term desire for information and stimulation, and our growing longer-term consciousness about our impact on the future, and our productive role within a larger harmonious ecology. It provides two resources – energy and data – harvesting both the natural ecosystem and humanity’s complementary cyber- sphere, fusing the two. The weather is our national obsession, uniting art and chatter; buses and markets are as alive with the discussion of clouds as the canvases of Constable or Turner.
Rainwater trickling over its surfaces and displays is collected and redistributed. Wind energy, amplified at elevation, is harnessed. Photovoltaic inflatables at the fringes can be unreeled during the day and docked at night or in high winds.
The Cloud will soar in the sky in the very area where plumes of smoke once rose from smokestacks – those symbols of an older London, the ‘workshop of the world’, powered by steam, teeming with energy, speed, industry and innovation – and pollution. It will show how far we have moved on. But it will also point to our new future as a global city, the factory of the new economy and the new ecology, where new ideas and possible future trajectories are bravely probed.
As Bruce Schneier observes, cloud-computing (or software as a service, delivered online) entails trust; the Cloud symbolizes this collective, distributed social effort, and our environmental inter- dependence on each other.