Cloudscapes

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The emergence of the term nanoclimate parallels the parsing of climatological data along increasingly compact geographical areas. Although its size has yet to be officially defined, it is considered to be a level of magnitude smaller than a microclimate—which is often used to describe areas like neighborhoods or wooded landscapes. Prompted by increasing interest in global climate transformations, nanoclimates reveal the intricate variations that can exist at the scale of a small garden or a room—spaces that may differ markedly from their surroundings.

“Cloudscapes” is an example of nanoclimatological architecture. Designed by Tetsuo Kondo Architects in collaboration with Transsolar Energietechnik GmbH, it is a small, two-story cube sheathed in transparent plastic. Based on their prior experience designing an atmospheric installation within the Arsenale building at the 2010 Venice Biennale, here the team created a standalone structure in a recessed courtyard at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo.

Cloudscapes achieves a startling feat of nanoclimatological engineering—effectively “trapping” a cloud within a clear, habitable container. A stair traverses the middle of the space, allowing occupants to experience three different atmospheric strata: a cold, dry layer of air at the bottom; a warm, humid layer in the middle of the cloud; and a hot, dry layer above. As spray nozzles emit a fine cloud generating mist at mid-level, the temperature and humidity within the cube are tightly controlled to maintain the three distinct atmospheric levels.

Although the installation appears hermetic, it is actually designed to respond to its own microclimate. Supported by ultra-thin 5 cm diameter pipes, the clear vinyl facade reacts to local changes in wind pressure, propagating exterior forces within while keeping the cloud and its atmospheric layers intact. In this way, what appears to be a detached environment actually maintains a loose connection with the world beyond—a tiny piece of sky brought down to earth.

The story continues in Hypernatural, which explores architecture’s new relationship with nature.

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