In the Air

“Tomás Saraceno’s work defies traditional notions of space, time, gravity, consciousness and perception through architectural, social and communitarian means that are utopian and participatory in nature. The sky and the earth are interchangeable in his installations, in which gardens float and people achieve their longstanding desire to float freely. Inspired by an interest in affecting change in the way we live and experience reality, each work is an invitation to conceive of alternative ways of knowing, feeling and interacting with others. Above all, the works show us that the possibility to transform the world is always within reach for those who are ready to collaborate in its design and construction. The work of Tomás Saraceno is perhaps the set of tools that we were missing.”

(Rodrigo Alonso)

What if a building was so light that on a windy day it could take off and elevate in the air?

This is the question that Tomás Saraceno asked himself when developing Solar Bell, the final project in the series of artworks created to in conjunction with the expansion of the port of Rotterdam. Since this extensive land reclamation project began five years ago, artists have been invited to observe, analyze and interpret the process. Their artistic visions and projects have functioned as beacons as the contours of the new land slowly took shape.

With Solar Bell Tomás Saraceno shares his dreams of a utopian new land, not reclaimed from the sea, but from gravity itself. Solar Bell is a flying sculpture, a vision of a flying plaza, a hovering observation tower. This sculpture is a part of a series of work in which Saraceno explores wind and sound structures. Saraceno’s ongoing project Cloud City, where cities float above the clouds, is powered entirely by renewable human, social and environmental ecologies. “Playing is one of the learning processes of life. It is the cultivation of what we do not think is possible,” says Saraceno. “With the ability to float, the traditional boundaries will be crossed between earth and space, between art, architecture and science.”

Solar Bell, fully lifted by the wind, is built using the latest technologies in the field of lightweight materials and sustainable energy technologies. To optimize the realization of his design, Saraceno and his team worked closely with the Aerospace Engineering Faculty at TU Delft, The Netherlands. The design uses light and extremely robust carbon fiber tubing and flexible solar panels to make it lighter-than-air. The sails are made of paper-thin solar panels. The design ofSolar Bell is based on a model of a modular tetrahedron, or four-sided pyramid, invented by Alexander Graham Bell during his early investigations into manned flight. Bell made important discoveries in the field of aviation and frame construction, and happened upon the strongest geometrical structure in the known cosmos—the octet truss—the same space frame that Buckminster Fuller later followed in his Geodesic dome. Saraceno breathes new life into Bell’s legacy by using the materials and knowledge of our time.

E-FluxTomás Saraceno: Solar Bell)

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