Innovation That Matters

Floating structures naturally cool urban spaces


The 'floating' Cloud Observatory, built on urban rooftops, uses evaporation to cool buildings.

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Buildings in warmer urban centers require costly and energy-consuming air conditioning to keep them cool — we recently saw an office tower designed to use natural air currents to regulate temperatures sustainably. Taking also from biomimicry, Spanish architect Nina Gonzalez Vives wants to use the evaporation hot buildings produce to keep them cool without relying on air conditioning.


The Clouds Observatory has been installed at a test roof-space in Madrid. Constructed of ‘floating’ plastic structures, it sees low hanging cloud-like urban rooftops — the aim is to create a cooling system that can be easily fitted as an alternative to reflective surfaces or urban garden systems, encouraging appreciation of city landscapes. As well as providing shade from the sun, the Clouds Observatory will capture the dense water vapor that rises up from the hot buildings beneath them, and the evaporation from the collected water will cool areas beyond its structure.

The need to cool urban centers is generating a lot of innovative design — see also the use of porous concrete to produce a similar effect. How else could design take from nature to keep cities cool?


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