Launch Slideshow

Artificial Leaf

Cloud 9 plans to sheathe the as-yet-unbuilt Hotel Forest in Barcelona with a draping system that will emulate a tree within a forest, with LEDs as its leaves.

Artificial Leaf

Cloud 9 plans to sheathe the as-yet-unbuilt Hotel Forest in Barcelona with a draping system that will emulate a tree within a forest, with LEDs as its leaves.

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    The pattern for the metal mesh net is tailored to fit the exact shape of the Hotel Forest in Barcelona, including terraces and outcroppings. The net has the appearance of being draped loosely, and extends farther out from the building as it nears street level, creating a canopy over pedestrians walking around the building's base.

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    The pattern for the metal mesh net is tailored to fit the exact shape of the Hotel Forest in Barcelona, including terraces and outcroppings. The net has the appearance of being draped loosely, and extends farther out from the building as it nears street level, creating a canopy over pedestrians walking around the building's base.

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    Individual leaf modules that contain PV cells to power LED sources are suspended on the net and glow at night. These modules can be programmed to emit different colors of light to create patterns on the surface. The result is a dynamic façade that engages the urban fabric surrounding it.

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    The net has an interesting visual effect on the building itself, creating filtered views from within and also superimposing a pattern of shadow across the building's surface during daylight hours.

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    Balconies and outdoor areas are enveloped by the net as well, making the whole hotel exterior a unique layered environment.

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    INDIVIDUAL LEAF UNIT Each leaf module is a convex disk with a plastic base and a clear glass face. The unit connects to the net with a simple clamp that is tightened to hold the module in place. The clear glass front allows sunlight to enter so the PV cell inside can generate power to fuel the leaf at night.

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    INTERNAL SYSTEMS Each leaf is self-sufficient, with internal systems that include the PV cell and RGB LEDs that can be mixed to create different color combinations. A CPU can be programmed remotely to achieve desired color changes, and a light sensor determines when ambient light levels are low enough for the system to activate.

Set to be deployed as a nontraditional façade for the planned Hotel Forest in Barcelona, the Artificial Leaf is a draping system of light-emitting modules suspended on steel mesh. The scheme is based on the analogy that if a city is a forest, each building is a tree. Adding a net of individual modules is akin to putting leaves on the tree, and like an actual plant, these leaves both generate and expend energy by harnessing the energy of the sun.

Each module is a convex disk that is 12½ inches in diameter and just over 2 inches thick at the center. One side is made from translucent plastic and the other from clear glass. Contained in each disk is a small photovoltaic cell, a light sensor, a battery, and an RGB LED source. The modules are clipped to the steel mesh and are programmed in tandem to generate different color effects—mixing different intensities of red, green, and blue creates single- and multicolored lighting displays across the façade.

The jury was impressed by the goal of making a building's façade a dynamic part of the urban landscape, and in so doing engaging the public with the built environment. “It is a way of inducing a pretty boring building envelope to deliver something that was really spectacular for the city, in its capacity to react and respond to its urban context,” said Chris Genik. “It seems like a layer of interaction that cities should become increasingly vested with.”

The jury also saw the potential for other applications of the net, both as a renovation tool and as an energy-gathering device. “This is a fresh and potentially more playful way to clad buildings in adaptive reuse situations,” said Blaine Brownell. “You're not constrained by the modules that currently exist or performance issues embedded within an existing skin. You can simply loosely drape something like fabric that not only performs for the building—or at least has that potential—but also can create this really interesting effect in public space.” The hotel and its unconventional façade, both designed by Cloud 9, will open in 2010.

PROJECT Artificial Leaf

CLIENT Prestige Hotels, Roses, Spain—José Moyano, Juan Marull, José Maria Moyano, Ignacio Marull

PROJECT LOCATION L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain

ARCHITECT Enric Ruiz Geli/Cloud 9, Barcelona, Spain—Enric Ruiz Geli (principal architect); Max Zinnecker (project architect, Hotel Forest/research and development for Artificial Leaf)

LIGHTING TECHNOLOGY iGuzzini Illuminazione—Adolfo Guzzini, Franco Nibaldi, Josep Masbernat, Alex Chiva, Massimo Gattari


  • Enric Ruiz Geli
    Enric Ruiz Geli
  • Max Zinnecker
    Max Zinnecker

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