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The investor who was interested in future-visions, did he have some special requirements about the design or the program?

Can I say that in the beginning of the project, you and the other designer want something attracting to the eye as well as friendly to the energy and environment? 

What did you do to solve the energy-problem?

 

The idea for Blue Crystal emerged in early 2004. An investor from Dubai asked us to create a future vision of an inner urban recreational retreat.
The only requirement we got from the investor was to create something extraordinary - something that would astonish people. 
It was important to us to create a contrast, to develop a concept that would be believed to be impossible on a location like Dubai. First the project name was "Antarctica". The first up-research pointed out surprising analogies between the Emitate region and the coldest continent on earth. Both ecosystems are very dry, as well as snow and sandstorms follow similar principles.
The decisive motion however was the contrast of urban Dubai City and the solitude of the desert and Antarctica. Solitude is a precious good in nowadays times, especially in a metropole like Dubai which is dominated by construction sides.

Our first idea was a minimised version of Antarctica including all the fascinating natural phenomena that are unique to Antarctica – like a projection of the polar lights. Soon it turned out that this approach was too objective, the concept ran danger of becoming an "Antarctica Themepark". Six month after we had started working, we saw us forced to start over. 

 

 

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From now on, the idea of snow and ice in contrast to heat and desert was only understood as analogy. Step by step we focused more and more on one single swimming iceberg. We started to integrate design elements from the Arabic world - the iceberg evolved from a raw and edgy appearance to a softer, more organic form pervaded by floral patterns. We discovered similarities between traditional Arabic ornaments and the shape of snowflakes. The architecture of the iceberg became a fusion of ice, water and organic patterns which had their origins in Arabic sand art architecture. All this became process of the later visual development of Blue Crystal.
We planned on not only creating an impressive landmark but wanted to merge cultural background of the Emirates and the icy and organic form of an iceberg.
A light installation visible on the outer skin of the structure showing observers the change of time by change of color: Blue Crystal becomes a gigantic clock, not only lifelessly floating on the water but even appearing in a new colour-coat by the hour.

 

 

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In the beginning of 2006 the first outlines of Blue Crystal were done. The basic form of the iceberg analogy was apparent, but the relation to a real ice-world was missing. A coincidence gave us a new idea that steered the project again into another direction. Around this time we were visiting London. Researching, we visited James Cameron’s Titanic Exhibition. A real iceberg was there to highlight the exhibition. I couldn´t believe my eyes and when I touched the surface I experienced that it was real ice in a warm exhibition room. 


We found out that the ice-block wasn’t massive but hollow. The thin ice-layer surrounding the body was permanently renewed by a cooling-system. Although we knew that this piece was just a simulation,
the fascination didn’t vanish.
From this moment on, we wanted to put a real touchable iceberg into the core of Blue Crystal: a glass cylinder which breaks open the interior architecture and opens up a view to the real iceberg inside. On every floor of Blue Crystal the visitor is given a new aspect of the cold monolith inside the cylinder. The cylinder also serves as a light tunnel which supplies the inside with natural daylight. The architecture of Blue Crystal becomes a shell with a cold core. 

 

 

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As further the project developed, the topic of energy recuperation became more and more important. To keep an iceberg alive in an environment that has 32°C air temperature needs a lot of energy. Even if like in our case, it was only a simulation. We were aware that our cold iceberg would only work if the needed energy was sourced out of an independent system that would ideally recycle most of its use.
We knew that we couldn’t run the whole complex without an external source of energy, but the aim was to at least run the core-iceberg selfsufficientely.
In cooperation with two engineers we developed different scenarios to see how this energy exchange system could work. First steps centered around Jörg Schlaichs Thermic Power Plant (Solar updraft tower).

The basic idea: warm air is collected and moved through a tube, through the thermic effect the air is accelerated so much that it can run a turbine. That turbine then creates power that runs the cooling system of the iceberg.
We tried to use the apparent disadvantage of the hot climate of Dubai for our purpose.
The transparent surface of Blue Crystal has been supplied with chambers which allow an air circulation and supports buoyancy. The excess heat from the cooling system is also added to the thermic power plant.

While developing Blue Crystal, quite a number of ideas came to our minds on how the structure could be supported by alternative energy-sources. For example a wider area of Blue crystals skin was planned to be coated in solar cells.
Our focus moves to connecting different ideas to solve the cold core problem. Even new developments like solar-balloons, ocean turbines, bio-wave or nano-vent-skin were discussed at that time, with the aim of combining them to make Blue Crystal work.

 

 

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Parallel to the technical developments, the in Wiesbaden based design-team started to work on the presentation of Blue Crystal. In whatever part the visitor is located, he always has the opportunity to influence his surroundings directly or indirectly.
For example: the visitor walks along a corridor and leaves traces in digital snow that is projected on the floor.
In the lounge the tables turn into "water sound bowls”.
Andreas Lauterwasser´s “water sound pictures” showed that every tone leaves a unique wave-structure on the water-surface.
Seat areas with interactive tables are central elements of the blue lounge. Water surfaces are projected on the table area.
Using an interface the visitor can create sounds which will be displayed on the table surface.
The water is put into motion and according to the key that is played it shows impressing patterns. Blue Crystal becomes an interface for tranquillity but also for the fascination of ice and water. 

 

 

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How long have you been working on this? During this period of time, doyou have some obstacles when covering this project or somethinginteresting?
 
The webpage of Blue Crystal has been online since 2006.
The awareness for environment and energy efficiency was not as developed as it is at this time. 
Still we communicated that the economical aspect of Blue Crystal and its energy recycling system was a central point of our concept.
Many people doubted that we would be able to make our ecofriendly architecture work, although we have been doing exactly this since the beginning of the project.
Irritating for me was that some internet authors didn’t even read our explanations nor tried to contact us.
„Unthinkable“ and „unrealistic“ were words that had been used to criticize our project. Honestly spoken, it doesn’t impress me much.
Here an interesting quote: Innovation is created by people who like doing a little more that they have to.
Almost daily we are in contact with people who do architecture and eco-economy. They keep enriching Blue Crystal with their ideas and visions. 
Reality begins dreaming and real visions are fortunately hard to stop.

 

 

 

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