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The Mylar Renaissance

Imagine walking into a dark, abandoned, stone church, the air a little damp and the floor echoing as you walk into the chapel, towards a glowing orb sitting on the floor.

In response to your approach, to your movement and to the heat you radiate, hundreds of individual metallic petals bend forward letting light and soft sound stream out.

Lotus Dome is the newest installment of the Lotus series by Dutch architect and tech artist Daan Roosegaard. As the principal behind Studio Roosegaard, a collaborative lab of engineers, artists, and designers, Roosegaard blends nature and technology to make architecture dynamic. His work spans interactive fields of light, sustainable dance floors and energy-generating highways.

LOTUS DOME hundreds of high-tech flowers by Studio Roosegaarde from Daan Roosegaarde on Vimeo.

Studio Roosegaarde calls Lotus Dome a "futuristic vision on the Renaissance" that "merges elements of architecture and nature into an interactive environment." Lotus Dome was commissioned by the City of Lille for the vacant church of Sainte Marie Madeleine.

Over seven feet tall, the dome houses a light source engulfed by hundreds of thin sheets of aluminum coated Mylar. The magic of Lotus Dome lies in Roosegaarde's elegant use of this versatile material.

Since its invention in the 1950s, Mylar has gone to the moon and back as NASA's insulator of choice on spacecrafts, satellites, and the Hubble telescope. You're probably familiar with Mylar as the material in space blankets, the foil wrappers runners use after marathons, and in helium balloons.
Frame from Lotus Dome Video
Courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde

The featherlight Mylar that envelops the surface of Lotus Dome was specially developed by Studio Roosegaarde and their manufacturers to softly bend towards one side when exposed to heat.

In an earlier Lotus wall of dynamic Mylar petals, a sensor tracked motion and initiated a tiny light within the wall. The heat from the light caused the petals near the light (and near you) to fold open. 

Lotus 7.0: a living wall comprised of smart foils that fold open in response to human behavior
In an interview in 2010,  Roosegaarde said that through the Lotus series, the studio explored what happens when technology merges with nature, reacting and moving with you to form a "techno-poetry" through space.
Inside the Sainte Marie Madeleine, the technology of the Lotus Dome interfaces the visitor with the Renaissance history of the church.

I, for one, really love when materials science and technology are used to develop new and thoughtful art. For anyone else now considering a trip to Lille, France, the installation will be up as part of 'Fantastic' Lille3000 through mid-January 2013.

[Images courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde]

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