By Michelle Harris
Clouds are transient in nature. The first cloud I saw created artificially indoors inspired me to think of the possibilities of a cloud as a building material (Nimbus II, 2012, by Berndnaut Smilde). My first thought was that it would be an interesting as a façade. As I considered the uses of this new building material I imagined even as far as using clouds on a wristwatch to tell time. The world of cloudlike possibilities became a reality when a classmate introduced me to a project, the Blur, completed for the Association Expo in 2001, in Western Switzerland by Diller & Scofidio.
The Blur was an ephemeral exhibit for the expo. The Blur was a central viewing platform and restaurant constructed from a series of steel piers and walkways floating above the lake. The façade wrapping the steel was a manufactured cloud. The building was shrouded in a wafting fog. What initially began as a fascination with the concept of clouds for me ends with the mechanical process of the cloud’s creation.
The transient nature of the cloud façade required a technical analysis of how clouds are created. Japanese weather designer, Fujiko Nakaya,was the leading expert in large scale pavilion structure productions. His expertise was not fully utilized due to the Association Expo wanting to have a European representative. This prompted Diller and Scofidio to begin a series of tests pioneering ‘cloud or fog’ creation. A series of nozzels were tested for water droplet sizes and the form of the orientation of the nozzle heads. What they concluded with was an elliptical matrix of mechanical components and a building that was a very wet experience.
Similarly, Nimbus II by Berndnaut Smilde forms on the principles of relative humidity and a misting of the particles. Very few people have experienced his art pieces in person. They’re represented in photography and media. However the use of clouds as a construction material you can experience comfortably is untamed.
With the manufacture of clouds as a possibility, the mystery of clouds in nature becomes more apparent. The flow of air and electrical currents that charge the atmosphere are predicted but the deeper meaning of why is unknown. The construction of a building with a cloud as a façade may possibly open the door to understanding a micro version of the why through the how.
Blur: the making of nothing, Diller & Scofidio. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers: 2002.
How to make clouds indoors: Berndnaut Smilde <http://yatzer.com/nimbus-berndnaut-smilde> July 18, 2013.
How Do Spiders Fly for Miles? Mystery Solved. <http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/09/27/how-do-spiders-fly-for-miles-mystery-solved/>
September 27, 2013.