Digital Water Pavilion
Digital Water Pavilion Expo 2008, Zaragoza, Spain The Digital Water Pavilion (DWP) is a building with walls made entirely of water. It opened in late June 2008 at the entrance of the World Expo 2008 in Zaragoza, Spain, just in front of Zaha Hadid’s newly constructed bridge. It contains an exhibition area, an information point and various other public spaces that can be programmed to take on varying shapes and to display patterns and images. The first of its kind to illustrate the potential of digital architecture to create spaces that dynamically adjust to people and conditions, the DWP was selected as Time magazine’s “Best Invention of the Year` in the field of architecture when its plans were unveiled in 2007. The design for the water pavilion grew out of a central challenge: How to make fluid, reconfigurable architecture? The building aims to stand as a possible answer to this endeavor. Water has long been recognized as one of the most dynamic and engaging elements of urban public spaces. For centuries, architects have shaped and directed it by means of channels and pipes, nozzles, valves, and pumps. The technology of digital water walls, and its pioneering application in Zaragoza's DWP, update this tradition for the digital era. Going forward, new combinations of sensor technology, embedded intelligence, networking, computer-controlled pumps and valves, as well as other new technologies open up the exciting possibility of urban-scale, precisely controlled and highly interactive water. The "water walls" that make up the structure are generated by high-speed computer controlled solenoid valves. They can be programmed to take varying shapes, to display patterns, images and text, and to respond dynamically to input from sensors. This capability enables architects to challenge many traditional ideas about architectural form. Doors, for example, need not have fixed locations. When you walk up to them, water walls can open like the Red Sea for Moses, and then seamlessly close behind you. The concept of digital water is similar to that of a large scale inkjet printer. The opening and closing of valves, at high frequency, produces a curtain of falling water -- a pattern of pixels created from air and water instead of illuminated points on a screen. The entire surface becomes a one-bit deep digital display that continuously scrolls downward. All of the walls of the pavilion are made of digital water, along with vertical partitions on the edge of the roof and inside it. The only solid element of the pavilion is the roof -- a high-tech, 400 mm thick moveable structure covered by water, engineered by Arup and built by Siemens. The roof rests on moveable pistons and moves up and down depending on wind conditions. It can also be recessedinto the ground, at which point the building disappears altogether. In total, the pavilion contains 3,000 digitally controlled solenoid valves along with several dozen pumps, 12 hydraulic stainless steel pistons and a digital control system based on open source software. The water used is fully recycled; some of it is lost because of evaporation, but it is supplemented by rainfall at the pavilion's site. World expos have always been venues to preview new and innovative architecture, from the London Crystal Palace (1851) to the Eiffel Tower (1889) to the Mies van der Rohe-designed Barcelona Pavilion (1929). The theme of the Zaragoza Expo is water and sustainable development, and the pavilion is part of the city's broader effort to reinvent itself as a 21st century hub of knowledge, innovation and creativity. The DWP illustrates how buildings of the future may change their appearance and form from moment to moment, based on necessity and use. It is not easy to achieve such effects when dealing with concrete, bricks and mortar. But this becomes possible with digital water, which can appear and disappear. In the nineties, digital technology led us to fantasize about distant virtual worlds. Today we have moved on: The future of architecture might deal with digitally augmented environments, where bits and atoms seamlessly merge.


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