Like an extraterrestrial hot air balloon in the middle of Gerlach, Nevada (one of the gateways to the Burning Man festival), Ephemeral Station is a unique sight. The sculpture is meant to adapt to a diverse number of settings while providing its own shade, power and water thanks to built-in solar panels and an internal water distillation system.
The project is headed by U.K.-based OF. STUDIO, which created the innovative, self-sustaining shelter to have the smallest environmental impact possible. The studio took its inspiration from the banyan tree, a type of tree that produces dense, hanging branches that take root wherever they touch the ground. Just like a banyan, the Ephemeral Station sculpture utilizes long, slender legs to pump surface water or groundwater into the main structure. Then, the water is heated and pasteurized to be used for drinking or irrigation systems.
Historically, banyan trees were also used as gathering points to bring communities together for protection from the elements or communal meetings. On that same note, Ephemeral Station is meant for social interaction, functioning as a central area for performances, events, sports, festivals or any other large gathering requiring shelter, energy and water.
As a sculptural piece, the station is sure to turn heads as its upper “cloud” expands and contracts as the internal temperature changes, almost like a living organism breathing in and out. The Nevada prototype is constructed using only recyclable materials, including polycarbonate, aluminum, cotton fabric and steel. Although the cotton that makes up the structure’s cloudlike balloon will need to be replaced every two to three years, the photovoltaic panels, the main steel structure and the aluminum elements will last between 20 and 30 years.
The upper balloon of the structure has a specific purpose; its expanding and contracting movements serve as a direct indicator of how much energy it needs to capture or how much water it needs to filter. This portion also adjusts according to the amount of shade it needs to provide to the people underneath.
Images courtesy of OF. STUDIO