MIT architects and engineers have designed an interactive structure made of digitally controlled water curtains. The Digital Water Pavilion is located at the site of the Expo Zaragoza 2008 in Zaragoza, Spain. The interactive water structure contains an exhibition area, a cafe and various public spaces.
The "water walls" that make up the structure consist of a row of closely spaced solenoid valves along a pipe suspended in the air. The valves can be opened and closed, at high frequency, via computer control, producing a curtain of falling water with gaps at specified locations (essentially, a pattern of pixels created from air and water instead of illuminated points on a screen). The entire surface can become a digital display that continuously scrolls downward. Equipped with suitable sensors, the water walls can detect individuals approaching and create an opening in the wall for them to walk through. This is the first time that digitally control water droplets have been used to create an architectural space.
The pavilion roof, covered by a thin layer of water, will be supported by large pistons and can move up and down. When there is too much wind, the roof will lower. When the pavilion is closed, the whole roof will collapse to the ground and the entire structure will disappear.
The digital water wall concept was initially developed in the Zaragoza Digital Mile class at MIT, led by William Mitchell and Dennis Frenchman, with Michael Joroff and Carlo Ratti. The design of the Digital Water Pavilion was carried out by Walter Nicolino, Carlo Ratti, Claudio Bonicco and Matteo Lai at the architecture office carlorattiassociati (Turin, Italy); the engineering company Arup (London, UK and Madrid, Spain); and landscape architects Agence Ter (Paris, France).