Clockwork eco-flower will be London's oasis
A giant glowing flower lit up London's Clerkenwell Green for the first time this Monday using energy collected in its photovoltaic petals and the spiral turbine spinning at the summit of its "stem".As the 12-metre interactive eco-sculpture, dubbed the London Oasis, slowly opened up its petals, the question on everyone's lips was: what is it?
The London Oasis is the capital's answer to a desert refuge, a functional sculpture that will serve Londoners as a getaway from noise and pollution and surrounds visitors with cool, clean air, relaxing sounds and images all channelled into six "pods"
But it is also an eye-catching demonstration of sustainable technologies, with its photovoltaic 'petals,' vertical-axis wind turbine and hydrogen fuel cell powering the air-filtering and cooling mechanisms as well as an evening light show.
The clockwork flower even collects rainwater, used to irrigate a garden at its base. Transparent casing and information posters provide an insight into the plant's inner workings.
London architect Laurie Chetwood, the mastermind behind the project, said: "The Oasis allows Londoners to get away from the noise, pollution and bustle of city life. It provides a tranquil oasis in an urban area where people can enjoy a more comfortable environment, meet friends, watch the oasis interact and enjoy entertainment."
"This is all in the knowledge that their enjoyment is not costing the planet as the Oasis is self-sustaining; harnessing and recycling natural resources."
"The idea came from an eco-house that was planned to be built in the South American Andes. But as far as I know this is a first, nothing like it has ever been built," he told edie.
The Oasis was conceived and built in less than five months by a team of around twenty engineers, architects and designers, including structural engineers WSP, environmental consultancy Arup and the people behind the spiral wind turbine crowning the structure - low-carbon engineers XCO2.
Although perhaps not the height of practicality, the Oasis - which was launched as part of London's Architectural Biennale 2006 - demonstrates that architecture need not always stay in the narrow confines of functionality.
And when it comes to promoting renewables and sustainability, an impractical but eye-catching 12-metre spiky flower that glows blue and purple at night may be more effective than leaflets full of references to "sustainability principles".
Before pushing the button that opened the structure's solar-panelled petals, deputy mayor Nicky Gavron praised its role as an advert for renewables:
"The London Oasis shows that cutting edge architecture can reduce carbon dioxide emissions and help tackle climate change."
"The mayor and I believe that tackling climate change is now the overriding imperative facing politicians - in fact facing us all. And when it comes to practical action on the ground cities are centre stage."
"Architects and engineers are central to both the adaptation and prevention that this entails, as 73% of London's total CO2 emissions comes from buildings," she said.
The Oasis will soon be moved from Clerkenwell Green to its permanent home, although where this will be is yet to be decided.
For more details see www.thelondonoasis.com.