Architecture that senses and responds: Digital Water Pavillion by MIT

Imagine a building that is made of water. There’s no doors or windows, but when you approach it, it will open up to let you in. The roof also is covered with water. And if there’s a bit of wind, if you want to minimize splashing, you can actually lower the roof. Or you could close the building, and the whole architecture will disappear.

Digital Water Pavillion has been designed and built for the Expo Zaragoza 2008,which features the theme of water. During the Expo,it contained a tourist office and an information point for the Digital Mile project.

“It started with a question by the mayor of the city, who came to us saying that Spain and Southern Europe have a beautiful tradition of using water in public space, in architecture. And the question was: How could technology, new technology, be added to that? And one of the ideas that was developed at MIT in a workshop was, imagine this pipe, and you’ve got valves, solenoid valves, taps, opening and closing. You create like a water curtain with pixels made of water. If those pixels fall, you can write on it, you can show patterns, images, text,” says Carlo Ratti, head of MIT’s SENSEable City Laboratory.”To understand the concept of digital water, imagine something like an inkjet printer on a large scale, which controls droplets of falling water.”


The”water walls” that make up the structure consist of a row of closely spaced solenoid valves along a pipe suspended in the air. The valves can be opened and closed, at high frequency, via computer control. This produces a curtain of falling water with gaps at specified locations – 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 will be made of digital water, as will vertical partitions, both on the edge of the roof and inside it. The pavilion roof, covered by a thin layer of water, will be supported by large pistons and can move up and down. When there is too much wind, the roof will lower. Similarly, when the pavilion is closed, the whole roof will collapse to the ground and the whole structure will disappear.

The Pavilion illustrates the potential of “digital water” as an emerging medium. While there have been prior attempts to digitally control water droplets, this is the first time that the idea was used to create an architectural space. Since plumbing and electronics are not inherently expensive and recycled water is plentiful and cheap, water walls could conceivably be created on a large scale.”The dream of digital architecture has always been to create buildings that are responsive and reconfigurable,” said Ratti.”Think about spaces that can expand or shrink 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.”

Ratti added:”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.”






Our environment is talking to us. How we sense the city today and actuating it in a way that we couldnt have done before… Finally, I want to end my blog post by sharing the inspiring talk of Carlo Ratti, head of MIT’s SENSEable City Laboratory;

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iyi seyirler,

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