The Cloud to hover over London Olympics

The Cloud is a lightweight structure featuring a tower topped off by bubbles resembling a large bunch of grapes. The idea is to stress "code rather than carbon" given The Cloud's myriad digital contrivances and the goal of energy self-sufficiency, more or less.

The 2012 Olympics in London will feature a bubble-like structure that give its occupants the sensation of walking in the clouds. Hmmm, they can do that at street level in London.

Want to know more? So do I because a bunch of translucent bubbles delicately strung together by cables from a supporting tower is indeed a unique structure. Also, see the two videos below.

Artist's view from above The Cloud

Visitors will be able to walk or bicycle through them and view the games from on high or watch extensive LED signage announcing the drama of the Games in real time. Let's try to put it into perspective from lightweight structures expert Joerg Schleich.

"Many tall towers have preceded this, but our [future] achievement is the high degree of transparency, the minimal use of material and the vast volume created by the sphere -- all on exceedingly slender columns, stabilized by a cable net such as the one I built in Stuttgart in 2001," he said somewhat immodestly (he built that all by himself?!). Schleich is one of a 21 contributors to the project.

I hope The Cloud with its "exceedingly slender columns" can withstand a stiff breeze. Certainly it's not for those afflicted by Acrophobia. I can't decide whether it reminds me more of Google-esque dishwater bubbles or a stroll through a vineyard at harvest time.

"The structure is a new form of collective expression and experience and an updated symbol of our dawning age: code rather than carbon," said project leader Carlo Ratti, head of the MIT SENSEable Cities Laboratory. In that vein, the Cloud will make use of solar energy (there's sunshine in London?) and regenerative braking in its elevators to produce energy.

The cloud also taps London's famous fog. As Monet once said "Without the fog, London would not be a beautiful city."

Expected cost will depend how much can be raised in private funds since public monies will not be used. Money will be raised through admissions, contributions as well as sponsorships for bubbles and LED signage.

"We can build our Cloud with 5 million pounds or 50 million," Cloud team member Walter Nicolino said in MIT 's press release. "The flexibility of the structural system will allow us to tune the size of the Cloud to the level of funding that is reached."

Indeed, The Cloud sounds like a flexible structure in many respects!

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com