Mind & Matter


Catching Big Air

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The BOR 90 under testing in San Diego. Photo by Gizmag.


Despite the lagging economy, 2010 is already shaping up to be an impressive year for design that pushes limits. First, we witnessed the opening of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building by some 40% over the next tallest structure. Now, we can view the world’s tallest wing sail—designed by BMW Oracle Racing for the America’s Cup race.

Taking full advantage of the unrestricted design rules this year, BMW has created a staggering wing sail nearly 200 feet in height. Constructed of kevlar and carbon fiber, the wing is larger than a Boeing 747 wing and spans up to 30 feet in width. Given its weight, the sail will require motorized controls as opposed to conventional ropes.

If all goes well, the wing sail should outperform fabric sails substantially—since it won’t deform like conventional sails. However, the sail is just now being tested in Spanish waters, and it’s difficult to predict how the boat will perform in this cutthroat event, which begins early next month.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.