Media-Tic - Enric Ruiz Geli Cloud 9
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Enric Ruiz Geli Cloud 9

Edited By Lucy Bullivant - 31 August 2010
What identity do you give a building with the role of digital technology hub in a new science and technology district? Cloud 9’s Media-TIC in the emerging 22@Barcelona, fortunately cannot be seen solely as an aesthetic statement. With its distributed sensor programme, it ‘performs’ its own climate control, with digital technology enabling an ETFE (ethylene tetrafluroethylene) skin - an energy-saving dynamic interface configured as a mosaic of milky white cushions over the 40x40 m facades in two different formats - according to the orientation. One façade has a single vertical cushioned panel containing nitrogen and oil to filter solar radiation, while the entrance side on C/Sancho d’Avila, has triangular inflatable cushions in a net around the structure that gleam in the sunshine. Their three air chambers work like a diaphragm, adjusting as sensors evaluate heat and the angle of the sun to shade and provide thermal insulation. Cloud 9’s advanced ecological agenda extends to every aspect of this Janus-faced building. Its light steel frame, 80% of which is suspended, designed in collaboration with structural engineers Boma and realised with CNC machines, is coated with pale green Aero Chemical paint. At night it looks bio-luminous at night without the need for further lighting, especially on the main façade overlooking Roc Boronat. With the cushions of its transparent, skeletal structure like atoms merging to create information, Media-TIC beat all contenders to win the European Award for Streel Structures (previous winner: Rogers Stirk Harbour’s Terminal 4 at Madrid Barajas Airport). Inside its clear, open spaces have variety of configurations. At ground level is a pillarless environment with a media gallery adjoining a U-shaped patio. A planted, accessible roof, four floors of rental offices for ICT firms, and three floors of small business spaces for starter firms sit above a 300 seater hall and Internet education spaces (first floor), and 2 parking levels (basement). The office floor ceilings are quite low but with such a high degree of façade transparency, this is hardly noticeable. Other buildings using ETFE such as Grimshaw’s Eden, a microclimate space, or the illuminated Allianz Stadium in Munich by Herzog & de Meuron are iconic statements, but the Media-TIC has a system of distributed intelligence with 300 sensors. 104 of these are connected to the façade to enable the ETFE cushions to respond in diaphragm or fog mode, adapting the building to light changes and for energy saving. The presence sensors inside and on the façade (connected to the lighting) help save energy (20% being achieved). They decide, effectively, what happens, not a central brain that gives instructions to them. As Media-TIC is a work space building with public access, its physical adaptations can be observed by a large number of people. As a 21st century ‘performative’ symbol of energy sufficiency, the hub has been launched at a point when buildings may be achieving LEED Platinum globally, but their design is often not very innovative or distinctive. While there is a lot of sustainable development going on using passive techniques and low technology, there is also a parallel group of architects increasingly using CNC techniques to make structures. Media-TIC combines the best of both motives in a smart building with distributed intelligence. It is serendipitous that Cisco Software, the public safety software developer, is looking at Barcelona as a city to launch a smart city operation, connecting cars, public transport, buildings and weather stations. Cloud 9’s founder Enric Ruiz-Geli - whose commitment to ecologically advanced buildings is influenced by the sustainable values promoted by Jeremy Rifkin, the American economist and author of “Biosphere Politics: a new consciousness for a new century” (1991) - did not predict when Cloud 9 won the competition that their design would become a demonstration building. He is pleasantly surprised to find that Media-TIC being inundated by politicians with roles in technological innovation from elsewhere in Spain and beyond. Cloud 9’s Pabellón de la ‘SED’ for the 2008 Expo, Zaragoza, and Evru Cave, a studio for the artist, realised in Barcelona (2008) were preceded by the Villa Bio in Liers (2005). Ruiz-Geli’s New York City Acquarium at Coney Island seems promising, and his scheme for an artificial wave on the beach at San Sebastian provocative. In this dream-like evocation of water, the building disappears altogether. The political debate about energy, however, is here to stay, and Media-TIC is a compelling emblem of our relationship with it.

Lucy Bullivant

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