Futuristic inflatable building opens in Barcelona

Its open lobby will be available for public exhibitions, workshops and other events. Designed by Cloud 9 Architecture studio, the futuristic Media-ICT (Information and Communication Technology) building has an inflatable southern façade segmented into organic triangular shapes that mesh with the surrounding nature-inspired architecture.

The structure is wrapped in a temperature-controlling ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) skin that inflates and deflates to regulate the interior climate. In all, there are 106 membranes or ‘pillows’ of ETFE, silver-blue in colour, which will slowly inflate or deflate, depending on the climatic conditions. Each ‘pillow’ is controlled separately, with individual sensors measuring heat, temperature and the angle of the sun.

In summer, the membrane acts as a sunscreen, filtering heat and ultraviolet rays by 85 per cent. The filter is created by inflating the chambers with a fog-like nitrogen mix, which blocks the solar rays and creates cooling shade. In winter, the membrane opens to soak up the solar rays, maximising the transmission of light and heat to the interior.

The Media-ICT building’s roof is covered with a garden and flecked with photovoltaic cells for solar collection. To save on non-potable water consumption, Cloud 9 has installed a rainwater collection system. A giant cistern stores the water, which is then distributed to the building’s non-potable plumbing system as well as to a district cooling system (for air-conditioning).

The new building is lined with sensors that allow the architects to keep tabs on its energy efficiency. At night, and without consuming any electricity, the façade will glow since the metal components have been coated with luminescent paint that ‘charges’ during the day to give off light during the hours of darkness.         

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