Alignment of Human and Natural Contexts.

As society contends with rising concerns over the viability of our ecosystems, the convergence of human and ecological priorities is increasingly evident. Architecture bears a long history of prioritizing the needs and desires of human experience, including the provision of shelter, creation of community, and design of conditions for physical comfort and human health. Over the past several decades, architecture has responded to challenges of sustainability, seeking to minimize the overall environmental impact of buildings and establish new metrics of energy performance. These measures increasingly acknowledge the impact of buildings on the biosphere, but do not yet fully embrace the fundamental alignment of human and natural contexts. 

Cloud forests have been rapidly disappearing due to climate change and deforestation. Rising global temperatures and deforestation cause a cloud-lifting effect, raising the cloud cover above the tree canopy and forest ecosystem that depend on constant moisture and humidity to support its life. The impetus for this project is to explore how design can contribute to the stabilization of the atmosphere and the restoration of the forest.

Cloud Magnet was designed to modify airflows in order to stimulate the formation of clouds, by reducing the pressure and temperature of air as it flows through the kites. The designs were refined through digital modeling, computational fluid dynamic (CFD) simulations, material studies, and physical prototyping. The final prototypes were fabricated in Philadelphia, shipped by airfreight to Costa Rica, and then assembled at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve prior to testing along the trails of the forest.

Beyond the localized performance of the kites, this project reinforces the notion that the constructed objects produce changes in weather in time that lead to measurable and interdependent micro-climatic and macro-climatic changes over longer periods. Scientists have produced definitive evidence that the current era of rapidly intensifying global climate change is the result of human factors. Current metrics of energy and material efficiency do not go far enough to assess the full impact that buildings have on the environment. Furthermore, if we are to fully embrace the ethical obligation that humans have to all other life forms, we must raise our aspirations beyond the notion of do no harm, and take measured steps to reverse the destructive consequences of our previous (and current) practices. 

In collaboration with Andrew Wit, Tonia Hsieh, and Sneha Patel with support from Sean Moss, Mary Stiger, Cheng Zhang, Kerry Hohenstein, Justin Bernard, Hannah Candelaria, Rob Mertens, Molly Berger, Natalie Duong, Sydney Farkas, Katie Fritz, Cori Keatts, Nikos Marks, Stephen Meyer, Jacob Schaffner, and Jenna Welch.

Acknowledgements: This project was funded by a Temple University Presidential Humanities and Arts Research Program Award provided by Temple's Office of the Vice Provost for Research.