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air art

Dr Cristian Suau & Carmelo Zappulla

Core Team: Cristian Suau Carmelo Zappulla Collaborators: Tsvetomila Duncheva Dr Frederico Wulff.

air art

Vertical Studio, Welsh School of Architecture, 2013

Thomas Caraceno. Cloud Installation

BRIEF AIR ART proposes to work on 3D fog collectors -lightweight and movable devices- which may regenerate ecosystems in engendered area in the planet such as the desert or remote contexts to prevent fires, draught and water shortage. Dr Suau has successfully worked in developing polyhedral fog collectors in the coast of the Atacama Desert, the driest land on Earth. AIR ART is a high-risk and highgain experimental workshop where a selected group of students will test innovative structural capacities of inflatable structures and hydrophobic nets to increase the yield of atmospheric water collection and harvesting in

PROPOSAL AIR ART will work on visionary design able to intersect and ‘milk’ fog and transform it into water for drinking and irrigation. The context of Wales and its mist condition is ideal to experiment new forms of fog collection.

We strongly believe that air structures can save the planet from global

GENERAL AIM Our aim is to research by design on pioneering smart and low-tech devices throughout the combinations and configurations of pneumatic frames supported by water-repellent meshes. Hence we need to think about a double-layering consists by: 1.Hydrophobic surface that helps to trap and increase the atmospheric water easily by collecting and grouping droplets in elastic meshes situated in high formations or ‘fog oases’ which are ecosystems or human settlements are endangered. 2. Pneumatic 3D structures can shape and reinforce the frame of any fog collector. A lightweight, DIY techniques, collapsible and drainage capacity is ideal for developing 3D water-collectors. Hence, AIR ART will be designed and tested throughout mock-ups to trap as much fog as possible; harvest and store water for drink and irrigation. AIR ART shifts from linear process of design towards collaborative environmental design strategies where art, design and manufacturing process interplay with their synergies. It showcases the immense possibilities that can be achieved even when working with a small budget, such our modest £100 pound limit.

SCHEDULE Week1 Intro Design and Climatic Analysis 22/04 23/04 24-26/04

Introduction Fieldwork Design

Week2 Design & Mock-up 29/04 30/04 01/05 02-03/05

Presentations and Design Choice Prototype 1 Prototype 2 Module Construction

Week3 Fabrication + Exhibition 06/05 07/05 08/05 09/05 10/05

Construction Construction Construction Site Testing Exhibition

Archigram. Instant city

Related Research FogHive - Cristian Suau Planet Earth needs to find out new ways to tackle climate into sustainable living by providing a more effective and holistic management of renewable energies like solar, wind and water supplies, particularly when it is reinforced by science-based innovations in the landscape, urban and domestic contexts. FogHiveŠ is determined as much by climatic and geographic factors as by any alternative for appropriate technologies. Its main aim is stopping desertification by repairing endangered fog oases ecosystems, and harvesting water for drinking and irrigation and fostering potential inhabitation in self-sufficient polyhedral configurations along arid coasts of our planet like Peru, Chile, Namibia, Spain, Greece, Yemen, China and others latitudes.

FogHive is a 3D experimental design prototype, which employs an agile and autonomous space-frame to trap atmospheric water in arid lands and then harvest water for drinking and irrigation. It is a lightweight, polyvalent and modular space-frame, fully wrapped with a light hydrophobic mesh, which can collect water fog. It also performs like a shading/ cooling device and a soil humidifier for greenery and potential inhabitation. Being a transformable construction, it can easily be installed on flatten or uneven grounds.

Fog Hive Dr Suau, Atacama Desert, Chile

Dialogue between Architect Frei Otto introduced the concept of “form finding” in opposition to the shaping of forms which in his opinion can only result in a deformation. He instead wanted to find, to explore and to optimize form.

What role does the ‘design tool’ play? Are there aesthetic and ethical criteria, which can be influential to form?

Today, methods of light construction are being optimized by means of adaptive structural systems into an ultra light construction. In this way, geometries developed using the principles of form finding demonstrate high structural performance together with high material efficiency.

stated Frei Otto in a 1977 interview with Heinrich Klotz who added:

Concurrently, there has been an emergence of seemingly or factually arbitrary forms in contemporary architecture. How free, how accidental should or may architectural form be? Which processes lead to form? Which considerations influence the process of design?

We almost only recognize the makers or the avoiders of form. The searchers of form are very rare,

Similarly contradictory is our architecture which, on one hand, demonstrates an almost unsurpassable degree of functional fidelity while on the other hand, an almost u nsurpassable exoticism in the bewildering freedom of form. Is the architecture of the twenty-first century still oscillating between poles like this? Form finding is research in the science material context that can be translated to the big scale. This jump from the small scale of the experiment to the big one implies unpredictable consequences

which add the human layer. We could think the artificiality as a smart non-mimetic interpretation of nature. Nature is always looking for the most efficient pathway, minimum energy strategies. But what innovative pathway do we suggest instead? At the moment, the 90º angle is efficient only in terms of human constructability. It is a convention of mankind to build cheap, nevetheless it doesn’t address the complex demand of the contemporary architecture. Among others, Otto Frei and Bucky Fuller were resesarching optimal forms and their constrains anticipating geometries such as fractals, packing or bubbles ...

Frei Otto, Apparatus for computing minimal path systems, Institute for Lightweight Structures (ILEK), Stuttgart, 1988

Creative Team

Cristian Suau Leader

Carmello Zappulla Leader

Frederico Wullf Contributor

Tsvetomila Duncheva Contributor

Juan Tapia- Owens CAD design

Maria Saeki Video making

Ryan Gormley Climatic Analysis

Tom Munday Climatic Analysis

Daisy Denny-Higgins Modelling

Jack Gett Preliminary design

Jamie McGhee Storyboard making

Josh Lewis Construction leader

Cristian and Carmelo testing pneumatic triangular modules

Thought Process Week 1 Presentations During the first week the team members worked in groups of two towards initial ideals and concepts. The variety of thought processes was spectacular ranging from highly pragmatic designs focused on structure, through studies of volcano

physics, to highly poetic proposals aiming to enfuse life into the desert areas around the globe. The four presentation were discussed paying attention to their strentghts, possible weaknesses and opportunity for further development. It was a great brainstorming and analysis excersise.

What follows is an outline of the separate ideas presented by the students.

Jack and Maria Floating Greenery Fog Collectors for the Apocalypse

‘In a post-apocalyptic world, there is no water left in the soil and desertification has advanced. The floating fog collector is invented to water and seed the barren deserts. A huge black inflatable heats up during the day and floats away. The fog-collector is carried to a different place as it collects water droplets from the fog. As night arrives, the inflatable becomes heavier with water and slowly descends to the ground. The pyramidal mesh will pierce itself in the ground. It will plant a seed in the ground and this seed will be watered with all the fog that has been collected. The following day, it will ascend as the inflatable heats up and continue on its journey to save the regenerate the planet.’

Top Image. Sketch explaining the system of the fog collector, inflating and travelling during the day to harvest water from the air, then anchored at night to spread seeds and sustain life in the deserted landscape. Left Image. A living plant transported by a baloon system across the desert, simplified visualisation. Right Image. Jack and Maria as participants in the apocaliptic scenario, struggling to retain life by extaracting water from the air.

Model of proposal.

Jamie and Tom Inflatable Branching Structures The proposal focuses on using an inflatable branch structure made of easily available beach matrasses bought from the local store. These products are then cut out and resealed to form tubes. These tubular modules can then be rearanged to form different formations , creating numerous scultural possibilities. The possibility to create a circular, or oval shape was also discussed, perhaps spanning across entire valleys. From The Self Made Tapestry: Pattern Formation in Nature by Philip Ball

Team testing pneumatic branchings

Juan and Daisy Tornado System Researching the science behind the phenomena of tornados, this proposal suggests a type of fog catcher. This would be in the form of a funnel, similar to wind catchers used for ventilation in buildings.

Because of their gradually narrowing and constantly swirling form they would devour clouds or mist from the sky and thus collect fluid.

Model of proposal.

Ryan and Josh Team 4 Presentation Theme The concept behind the inverted cone form, is that we wanted to catch any potential fog from a 360 degree dew point. The centre point uses basic physics to direct the liquids into a central tank, whre rainwater would also be collected.

Visualisations and site identification.

Site Analysis Identification and Climatic Data Produced by Tom and Ryan.

Site 1: Gwaelod Y Garth (Valley)


10-20 mph 85-98% 8-12 Degrees Celcius 1000-1020 mb 1-2km

Gwaelod y Garth is located in a valley where fog collects at the bottom. The Venturi wind channeling eect is seen through the valley, funneling the prevailing South Westerly winds gradually moving the fog North. At this site, the fog is more present in early mornings around 07:00. This site tends to only have fog at this time due to the winds through the valley.



KATABATIC AND ANABATIC FLOWS: Along with the Prevailing winds, the large hills formi

Site 2: Ryder Cup Course (usk valley)


The River Usk meanders through the city of Newport. One part of its path being the world famous Ryder Cup golf course. Fog usually occurs at this site, due to the dynamic typography of the welsh valleys and the river itself.

Initial Designs Week 2 Workshop Session Following the intense discusssion the students started working towards developing a design which would incorporate the best of the presented. Flexibility was considered as a key aspect as well as the ability to create a site-specific structure, reacting to weather conditions. This would allow the structure to be assembled in the most appropriate form according to prevailing winds, moisture density in the air, slope of terrain, etc. These considerations, along with the practical choice of available materials, the findings from the branchresembling inflatable prototype and the physics of fluids lead to a choice of a highly robust triangulated design.

The main advantages pointed out were: 1. Flexibiliyty of design 2. Adaptable to site 3.Construction ease 4. Sculptural form 5. Ease of transporation 6. Structural stability

Basic module model constructed using plastic straws representing PVC and clear tape representing velcro connections.

Workshop Design 1. Multi-Layered Tetraeder This option utilizes the basic traingular 3D configuration of a tetraeder through several modules. The aim of the design was to have internal as well as external hydrophobic mesh layers, which would capture any secondary moisture content passing through the external skin. However, the option was dismissed because of the excessive use of structure and possibility of more imaginative triangular configurations.

Workshop Design 2. Truss Visually and structurally resembling a truss system, this configuration would be suitable for areas with great wind speed for example, where the height of th efog collector becomes problematic.

Workshop Design 3. Geodesic Pentagon This design uses 5 triangular modules to create a pentagon-based low rise structure. The aim of it was to create a large surface area using minimal internat structure. However, it was anticipated that such a construction would lack the ability to capture large amounts of water from the air due to the emphasis on the horizontal elements. It was asserted that it could be used as a top element for the structure should it have a suitable top surface.

Workshop Design 4. Octahedron One of the basic Platonic Solids, this assembly of triangular elements showcased the possibility to eliminate the complicated web of internal structure observed in the first two cases. It tries to maximise the external surface area to structure ration similar to the Geodesiv umbrealla. This module demonstarted good stability under vertical and lateral loads. However, it was noted that stacking or grouping octahedrons would be much more difficult that tetraeders.

Workshop Design 5. Tetraeder Branch

Following the separate experiments and analysis of configurations it was decided to construct a tetraeder-based fog collector, based on the notion of branching. The design would thus have a central module, and grow outwards in all directions via shared triangle bases with additional modules.

First Prototype. Triangle Module On the morning of April 30th the first 1:1 structural prototype was started. The design depended greatly on the materials available, and seemed to be quite easy to execute at start. Deceivingly simple! It was decided that

each triangle would eb made of a strip and a half of the available PVC, using and iron to melth and thus glue it. It was assumed that the mesh could be inserted inside the cut made.

Morning discussion on the construction of the first prototype, concentrating on the most efficient and logical use of available materials

leaders with students in action

First Prototype. Construction Concerns

Unfortunately, several problems arose while producing thie prototype, the main ones outlined: - The mesh melted when ironed

- Plain tape didn’t work as a connector - Staple didn’t work as a connector - Double sided tape proved to be good for temprorary but not permanent use.

Collaboration on trying to figure out how the mest and the PVC structure will be joined together.

Embedding the mesh on the module

First Prototype. Analysis However, this prototype had many problems, most of which connected with the bad craftmanship, more specifically an air tightness problem. No matter what, the structure would always deflate after a few hours. Overlapping the mesh and PVC was unefficient use of material and would not stay onto the PVC with the double-sided tape applied.

Technical details: - Lenght of side: 700 mm - Time needed to produce: 2 hours - Mesh surface area : 212000 mm square

Left over materials to be used.

preliminary modular test.

Second Prototype.

Hairs traighteners used for sealing the modules

Detail picture of the mesht used.

Final Product First Module. The final prototype is an eye-pleasing module with a legth of 1400. The connectors used are staples for the mesh, amd ironing for the side elements. The modules produced would thus be tetraeders, 40 overall with a side of 1400, which should be able to rise as

high as 5400 according to the structure model designed. Technical details: - Lenght of side: 1400 mm - Time needed to produce: 30 minutes - Mesh surface area : 848800 mm square

One triangular module with fine mesh attched. The final would use the stronger, albeit darker, sun shade mesh.

Inflating the first module for the first time.

Final Prototype. Improved Craftmanship and spatial configuration The final design is based on using 40 modular triangles to form 10 basic tetraeders. These are then joined in a structure which branches out from the centre in three directions, becoming gradually more slender.

Final construction. Orthographic drawings.

on-site montage

scenario 1: mountains

constructional detail

scenario 2: crestlines

scenario 3: wetlands