Cloud Osaka exemplifies high-resolution open synthesis applied to a largescale urban master plan. Transportation hubs and highly urban train stations in particular, are becoming destinations in their own right: strong urban attractors, often showcasing some of the latest technologies.
Envisioned as a high-resolution urban interchange, Cloud Osaka embodies Biothing’s approach to complex design synthesis across multiple orders of scale.
Due to its central position in the city, a high convergence of users and one of Asia’s densest transportation nodes found in the adjacent JR Osaka Station, the key driver for the project was to understand 2.5 million people traversing the site every day. This is nearly 10 times the number of daily passengers at the busiest airports in the world. Such an extreme volume of pedestrian traffic, compounded by other forms of traffic in the area, warranted choosing computational physics simulation ordinarily used to simulate systems like river flows; indeed, a key driver for the project became the concept of a “river of people”.
Fluid dynamics applied with creative and unnatural values of “designer physics”, was used to generate a highly porous and connective voxel cloud, absorbing large amounts of data from different scale systems. A bespoke computational toolset developed for this project is structured through few distinct computational layers. Data from the large voxel cloud generated through fluid dynamics is a base data layer, into which other systems feed. Custom software is written for the universal growth of lattice structures.
Simulation results suggested a landscape of elongated dune-like formations. Unnatural geography is crystallised from the city’s specific pressures inflected on the interwoven flows of fine resolution physics. The extreme volume of pedestrians on the site reverberates throughout the whole project, being a natural fit for the information-packed, high-resolution design fabric. It addresses complexity and offers robustness in the face of immanent change. Dune-like massing volumes of voxelised formations are programmed to swell into more or less development. Their field distribution into distinctly defined volumetric zones allows for phasing of construction.
Specific inflections in the curvatures that define the formal characteristics of this urban massing, resonate an otherworldly beauty of Mars dunes (which served as visual inspiration). The formal envelope was modelled based on the simulation results from the gravity, friction and viscosity of the strange liquids that are unlike the ones found on Earth. This “alien” approach to the aesthetic of strange and unseen, recalls the Japanese culture of manga and anime which, after the nuclear cataclysm of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, introduced a particular topic of unnatural and nature versus artifice. In this project a particular kind of urban fabric was introduced, that hybridises strands of nature and artifice, culture and technology.
A high-resolution adaptive structure is proposed to address the necessary heterogeneity of such a complex site. Instantiated into different zones of the voxel cloud, the structure grows higher in density in the zones mapped for heavier pedestrian traffic. A larger density was necessary not only for stronger structural support in some areas, but also for distributed and multiplied capturing of vibrational kinetic energy, as well as various IoT sensors that support pedestrian transient programming (such as data collection for AR- and VR-based shopping).
This intricate structural cloud is enhanced by the AR designer cloud, transporting the visitor into an experience of ephemeral discovery: unseen unnatural weather, inspired by the phenomena of sakura blossoms, which for a brief moment becomes a new form of weather in the fabric of this Japanese city. A ubiquitous yet fleeting, beautiful, strange cloud attracting people to gather, share and celebrate.