Weightless | Paisajes Emergentes

The project Weightless by our friends from Paisajes Emergentes plays again with the idea of ballons and habitable airships started in 2007 with the project In Thin Air and then followed by Clouds. This time they won the Second Prize in Fleetwood Site at the TownShift: Suburb into City competition. The aim of the competitions was to seek innovative ideas for five of Surrey’s established Town Centres: Guildford, Fleetwood, Cloverdale, Newton and Semiahmoo, and to “Shift” thinking and opportunities for each of these town-hubs towards more intense, public-minded and productive urban futures.

From the competition brief:

In geographic terms, these Town Centres occupy gently-sloped hilltops, but are separated from each other by the ALR and mile after mile of almost indistinguishable postwar development. Making the Town Centres the locus of higher density mixed use development is an increasingly important popular sentiment in Surrey, shared by citizens, developers and politicians. The schemes will demonstrate the possible futures for the Town Centres, along the way generating visual guidance and urban ideas for suburbs-becoming-cities everywhere.

The project speaks the same language that Kundera developed around his novel l’Insoutenable légèreté de l’être. The German expression Einmal ist keinmal encapsulates “lightness” so: “what happens but once, might as well not have happened at all. If we have only one life to live, we might as well not have lived at all”. And Paisajes Emergentes’s proposal is something that is always happening, trying to escape from this kind of lightness through a new and more physical weightless.

From this in 2007:

In Thin Air, scan from PE’s sketchbook

To this in 2009:

Weightless image. The Fleetwood Marker

The Fleetwood Marker will serve as support for communication devices, like cellphone antennaes, radio or tv broadcasting and weather stations. Clearly innovative, the project is a new approach to this kind of installations and eliminates the need for a heavy steel structure. To get this weightless or lightness talked above, they follow the same principles as other captive ballons around the world but using clusters instead of one single big ballon.

At the competition PDF the structure is described with these words:

Certainly the least interesting thing that a vertical tower can do is just displaying a welcome sign. Vertical structures can serve to diverse uses like communications, energy conduction and weather forecast [among many others] and are always the greatest places for having views over distant landscapes. That’s why the Fleetwood Marker is a dematerialized tower, it’s lighter than air and it’s structure keep itself sticked to the ground instead of supporting it’s own weight: it is made with clusters of weather ballons filled with helium.

The 1930s witnessed the first balloon ascensions into the stratosphere using sealed, pressurized gondolas. In 1930 Auguste Piccard designed a spherical, pressurized aluminum gondola that would allow ascent to great altitude without requiring a pressure suit, with and increassing interest in ballooning, that was just starting at that times.


Weightless. The Fleetwood Marker at night

With the adecuated amount ballons filled with helium, the clusters can replace tradiyional static structures. The Fleetwood Marker was designed to be affected by weather changes, as if it is a vertical cloud and also to be something simple, like a détournement created by L’Internationale situationniste, but this time, just happening in the air.


Weigtless. The Fleetwood Mark, plan


Weigtless. The Fleetwood Mark, parts

As some background projects, we can mention the Strato Lab project, that proposed ballons to make inhabited flights with a crew of two and three persons through the stratosphere and Archigram designed the Instant City using ballons as means of mobile facilities carrying information [education] and entertainment services of the city:


Strato Lab with crew


Archigram’s Instant City

Now, we can keep speculating [after more than 60 years] with cities formed by ballons and clusters as architecture and just enjoy these kind of ideas. In words of Paisajes Emergentes: “the tower doesn’t look like a skycraper, maybe it’s more related with a zeppelin or common helium ballons used in advertising”. Can we find other uses for ballons, as structural pieces or inhabitable devices?

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