A project planned for London’s 2012 Olympic Games sounds like pure science fiction, but the technology that could see it built is already available.
Raise The Cloud aims to construct a futuristic viewing platform towering above the city, with built-in, state-of-the-art multimedia.
The name acknowledges both its lofty stature and the remote data storage systems made possible by the Internet and destined to become used by everyone.
The Cloud will be both a physical and digital entity, designed to broadcast real-time data and images on spherical, three-dimensional screens. While the images would float high above the city, the sound would be broadcast at ground level. Above ground, people could watch the Games action or just look across England.
“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,” goes the rather florid explanation on the project’s Web site (raisethecloud.org).
“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 datums 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 lightweight transparent tower, composed of a ‘cloud’ of inflatable, light-emitting spheres, would create a spatial, three-dimensional display in the skies of London, fed by real time information from all over the world.
“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.” For the less athletic, there would also be lifts.
The project is a joint effort by Google and MIT. Funding will be largely dependent on public micro-payments.
Many technical writers are understandably sceptical about the concept, doubting whether the money can be raised and the necessary building permits obtained in time. The presence on the design team of fiction author Umberto Eco as “an advisor” prompted suggestions that the whole thing is just fantasy.
Political will is also going to be a major factor, and while London’s ambitious and well-connected Mayor Boris Johnson certainly has the clout to push it along, he has yet to publicly endorse the project.
The designers say the Cloud can be built for “5 million pounds or 50 million”, its scale dependent on the amount of contributions.
It’ll be quite a spectacle, if it happens.