John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Santiago's downtown cooling station is an outlandish hive of white fabric that constantly leaks water. Yes, please.
For people suffering on hot days on the urban heat island, there's often little respite from the roasting other than ducking into a store with A/C.
But inhabitants of Santiago have a much cooler option. Down in the city center is an outlandish hive of inverted cones of white fabric that constantly leak water; stand under the pristine sheets, and you'll receive a cold shower. Squeeze the dampened drapery and you've got a nice drink of fresh agua going on.
The maze of moistness, called "Water Cathedral," beat out several other skin-chilling options in a 2011 architecture contest put on by Chile's Constructo and MoMA's Young Architects Program. Crafted by GUN Architects, the ethereal installation is meant to relieve pedestrians sweating on the sidewalk like wieners on a Foreman grill while providing an interesting place for the public to congregate.
Here's how MoMA describes it:
The structure is made up of numerous slender, vertical components, which hang or rise like stalactites and stalagmites in a cave, varying in height and concentration. The project incorporates water dripping at different pulses and speeds from these hanging elements, fed by a hydraulic irrigation network. When filled with small amounts of water, the stalactite components act as interfaces out of which water droplets gradually flow and cool visitors below. The stalagmites topography provides elements of shade, along with plants and water that collect under the Water Cathedral’s canopy.
Why doesn't every city have a water cathedral? It beats out the other options by far. Misting tents are more suitable to county fairs or the zoo, and dunking your dessicated carcass in a public fountain is a sure way to get a ticket or an amoebal infection. Here's hoping that Santiago inducts the Catedral de Agua into its permanent city architecture. (See a video of the Water Cathedral here.)