CLOUD NINE

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Project, 2015
San Francisco, CA
collaboration with Variable Projects

Cloud Nine is an information-rich ‘cloud’ that hovers over San Francisco’s Pier 9 plaza along the Embarcadero. Fabricated from stainless steel, the cloud takes advantage of the site’s solar exposure to produce a shifting field of shadows for pedestrians to experience from below. Supported by eight slender columns, the cloud cantilevers towards both the plaza and street as a welcoming gesture to the public. Its geometry, together with a minimal pattern of painted grid lines on the pavement, works with the site’s existing benches to create a cohesive, inviting space for passersby on the Embarcadero.

Designed to be fabricated from stock steel components that have been customized with a series of computational design and digital fabrication techniques - specifically parametric joints cut from steel plate on a 5-axis water-jet cutter at Autodesk's Pier 9 Workshop. The joints themselves are optimized for ease of fabrication, welding, and assembly; the precision of the 5-axis waterjet process ensures that they are self-registering/self-jigging with the tube members.

Cloud Nine’s materiality and lightness evokes the famous San Francisco fog, but also the paradigm of the data-infused cloud that now seems to permeate all aspects of contemporary culture. The installation itself is embedded with data, in the form of waterjet-cut perforations that communicate text via Morse code patterns. Throughout the day, the sun projects this data down to the plaza below, where pedestrians—knowingly or not—become immersed in a cloud of information. At night, the cloud is lit from below with LED lighting, providing an entirely different atmosphere than during the day.

Cloud Nine’s synthesis of digital fabrication, traditional means of construction, and data spatialization suggest a new way for leveraging advanced design and fabrication tools: one in which the digital and analog are merged to produce innovative spatial constructs that engage the public in new ways.

Project Credits: Design: Matt Hutchinson, Adam Marcus (Variable Projects)