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A Breathing Entity - The Media TIC Building, Barcelona

Posted by
on October 15, 2014 at 01:54 PM

Enric Ruiz-Geli, founder of Barcelona-based architectural practice Cloud 9, believes that while buildings currently produce 40 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions, architects have the capability to construct buildings that only consume the energy they produce! A path-breaking example of architecture - using digital technology to imitate nature and reduce the carbon footprint of the building!!

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In the Future of Design, we don’t only look ideas of the future, but also dwell into sparks from the past; ideas that need to be carried forward and discussed at great length. The Media-TIC building in Barcelona, Spain by Cloud 9 Architects is one such spark of an idea. The building is a meeting point for companies and professionals is in the shape of a cube, covered in a plastic coating of inflatable bubbles, offering glimpses of the fluorescent structure of the building. The  same building that found a new expression for sustainable design also went on to win the World Architecture awards in 2011.
 

It is an information and communication technology hub designed to incubate, generate, exhibit and invite new ideas and developments in ICT. With this project, Barcelona is transforming an industrial district which was the city's main economic motor for over a hundred years. In its place, it is creating a new model of intellectual space that will promote collaboration and synergies between the University, Technology and Business, with the aim of encouraging the development of an innovative culture and fresh talent.Together these elements create an environment of interaction between technology thinkers, inventors and users.

The eight-level, 38m-high building will be separated into three sections of varying density, offering a total floor space of 23,104m² and occupancy capacity for 2,418 people. It comprises of four floors of rented offices for ICT firms, three floors of small business spaces for start-up firms and a roof garden sit above a 300-seat hall and Internet education spaces on the first floor. The ground floor comprises a gallery adjoining a U-shaped patio; below are two levels of basement parking.

Just as its structure takes the form of a distributed net of inflatable bubbles, so the building has a distributed intelligence system employing 300 sensors, ranging from presence sensors in the lobby to sensors controlling artificial light levels according to the distance from a window. Each of the facade cushions is controlled by its own sensor, making the building a living, breathing organism. As Media-TIC is a commercial building with public access, its physical adaptations can be observed by a large number of people both inside and from the street; something that has never been seen before.

The hub uses distributed sensors to control solar shading by ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) skins on the south-east and south-west facades. This dynamic interface has two different formats to match the building’s orientation to the sun. For instance, the south-west facade filters solar radiation through a screen of vertical cushioned panels containing nitrogen and oil, which coalesces as a ‘cloud’ sunscreen. In line with the pro-technology theme of the site, the architect made technology a central part of the building's creation. The design team designed the building and also incorporated advanced technologies into the actual architecture of the building to enhance energy efficiency.

Enric Ruiz-Geli, founder of Barcelona-based architectural practice Cloud 9, believes that while buildings currently produce 40 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions, architects have the capability to construct buildings that only consume the energy they produce. In his eyes this would be ‘an architecture that performs the way nature does’, as generously as trees function. To date, fully-fledged examples of this approach have been thin on the ground, but Cloud-9’s marvel  in Barcelona powerfully epitomizes green design as an all-in-one ethic and aesthetic. "The theme of the Media-TIC building is how architecture creates a new balance with the digital use of energy," says Ruiz Geli. "In the digital information era, architecture has to be a technological platform, in which connectivity, new materials and nanotechnology are important." The attractive covering regulates light and temperature, primarily preventing 114 tons of carbon dioxide escaping from the building in a year and offering a 20 per cent saving on climate control.

Rightly nicknamed ‘The Digital Pedrera’, after Gaudi’s organic La Pedrera on Passeig de Gràcia, it hints at the intention to ‘perform nature’. While Gaudi was driven by nature’s geometric beauty, Ruiz-Geli’s priority is bringing nature’s adaptive, productive qualities into building, to ‘create an architecture that teaches us something’- and that it rightly does.

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