Called Vortex Generator, Brooks + Scarpa’s proposed structure merges a public pavilion with a renewable energy power plant, and is intended to capture energy from the sun as well as lightning storms.
The P.O.D.System Architecture project calls on Los Angeles-based architects to create conceptual buildings based on the story behind adidas’ recently launched P.O.D.System shoe, which combines three different shock-absorbing technologies into a single sneaker.
“We wanted our building to relate to adidas’ tagline for the P.O.D.System shoe: Great alone, better together,” Brooks explains in the movie, which Dezeen filmed in Los Angeles.
“So we combined spaces that are traditionally never put together – a public pavilion and an energy substation.”
Envisioned for Sarasota Bay, Florida, where hot sun and intense lightning storms are commonplace, the conceptual pavilion features a huge, spiralling, gas-filled structure in the centre, made from a flexible, conductive mesh material.
The top of this structure features a ring of solar panels to capture energy from the sun, as well as an array of lightning rods.
The funnel-like pavilion inflates when a storm approaches, rising up to attract lightning strikes, which it directs to the electrical substation below.
“When the sun is out, it is essentially a deflated structure,” Brooks explains. “When a storm comes across, it rises three-hundred feet to harness the energy of lightning and it become a completely different space.”
Vortex Generator would be accessible to the public via a walled walkway set below the water level of the bay, which rises up out of the water and spirals around the base of the inflatable structure.
The central portion acts like a giant lightning rod, ensuring that no-one on the path would be struck by lightning in a storm.
“Traditionally, when you’re in a thunderstorm, you run for cover,” Brooks says. “We wanted to flip that and provide a space for people to experience a thunderstorm while being protected.”
As well as capturing electricity from the storm, Brooks and Scarpa imagine that Vortex Generator would also create a show for people watching.
“When lightning strikes, the energy captured in it would glow like a lantern,” Scarpa says. “The moist air would steam up and it would actually come out at the top, almost like a smoke ring.”
It is not currently possible to harvest electricity from lightning.
Brooks and Scarpa admit that they do not know exactly what material the mesh structure would be made of, or how the electrical charge of the lightning strikes would be converted into useable energy. But they hope that the design will inspire people to consider what the future possibilities of a new renewable energy source could be.
“The power of lightning is a very difficult thing to harness, but we have hope that someday it can happen,” Scarpa says.
“Our project really provokes thought and we hope that it allows people to continue to think about it and maybe find a way to harness the power of lightning.”
This movie was filmed by Dezeen in Los Angeles. It is the fourth of five videos as part of the P.O.D.System Architecture collaboration between Dezeen and adidas Originals.
Previous videos in the series feature building concepts designed by fellow Los Angeles-based architecture firms Neil M Denari Architects, Design, Bitchesand Standard Architecture, while the final film will reveal a design by Bureau Spectacular.