DS+R: Breathe / Focus - Inspire

U.S. Olympic Museum

Diller Scofidio + Renfro

The Rocky Mountains have semi arid climate with 300 days of sun a year, low humidity and refreshing day to night temperature swings. It is one of those climates that lends itself to experimentation with natural ventilation, daylighting, green power, and radiant technologies. The real challenge was how to address the growing urban context.

The site for the Olympic museum was adjacent to a park and a coal based power plant, the community had put a lot of effort into studying the coal plant’s future and due to cost will unlikely be able to be decommissioned in the next 15 years. However, the plant is currently increasing its effort to sequester its exhaust with air scrubbing technologies and we wondered, could the Museum itself actively participate in that effort?

Currently, the textile industry is developing fabrics and composite membranes that are infused with carbon sequestering solutions that help purify the air - sort of like trees. Helen's 'Herself Clothing’ line using these infused fabrics and demonstrated its potential at traffic intersections in London, and the Wendy project at PS1 NY City sequestered the equivalent of 260 cars exhaust per day.

When we looked closely at the building site's wind rose, we notice that the winds were dominantly coming from the south during times when the museum and park were most active. So we thought – let’s wrap the building with a carbon sequestering membrane and filter the south winds coming over the coal plant while framing the views of Pikes Peak and providing shade and comfort.

But when you wrap yourself in a membrane you have to make sure that you can still breathe and not overheat. Athletic gear has become very sophisticated in fabrics with weaving technologies to provide protection while maintaining oxygen flow to the skin and allowing for heat removal.

Could the building learn from this? Because this particular site has the potential to naturally ventilate its spaces 54% of the year! This is due to the low humidity and pleasant day to night temperature changes. If we go back to the wind rose, we see that at night a majority of the cool breezes come from the north of the site and not from the south.

Knowing that the views of the Pikes Peak and Drakes Power Plant will be reduced, could the building open itself up to recharge from the day and offer views of the Colorado sky? At the same time collect the moisture in the morning air for daytime evaporative cooling and harness the energy of the stronger night winds through simple piezo-electric technologies. And the operation of opening the facade doesn't have to be complicated or expensive, specifically with lighter materials.

But what happens when it's winter? Did you know If you were to shave a polar bear it would be black, not white. The bear has translucent fur that captures light from all directions and focuses the radiation on to its skin. This allows the fur to protect it against the cold wind but still absorb the heat and energy from the sun. Could our building skin perform in a similar fashion, where we transfer and focus the suns radiation past the wind barrier to an absorptive inner envelop to use for heat and energy?

There is an emerging movement in photovoltaic tech that is moving away from continuous silicone membranes to concentrated systems that intensify the solar radiation. It's cost effective as it uses less of the expensive rare earth minerals that convert light to energy. But more importantly / pv's are inherently softer and more translucent offering a broader range of interaction with people and reducing glare and reflection. …