Balloon Buildings That Shimmer Like Oil On Water

Tomás Saraceno has a vision for a utopian future, and its buildings float.

What is utopia, the perfect world? It’s a heady question, and obviously an impossible one to answer. Even if we cure all disease, stop every war and put a roof over every head, is life perfect when it’s obstacles that define progress? Can life ever be perfect?


Tomás Saraceno is obsessed with two ideas. The first is utopian society. The second is balloons, and the work of architects like Dominic Michaelis. It’s from these converging interests that he made Poetic Cosmos of the Breath, a part-building, part-balloon back in 2007.

To say a foil was filled with hot air and weighed down with sandbags does the project no justice. It was a vibrant spectacle, shining with every color of the sun–a challenge of what a building could be (even if no one ever moved in furniture) for a whole society of buildings that floated on air.

But to really understand it, you have to understand Saraceno’s view of utopia:

There are two false meanings of utopia: one is this image of an ideal society that never will be realized, and the other is a capitalist utopia that you have to strive for, but are not allowed to. The true utopia is when the situation is so hopeless and impossible to resolve within the coordinates of the possible that you have to invent a new space purely for survival. Utopia is not a matter of imagination—it’s an emergency one is forced to imagine as the only way out, and this is what we need today.

So for Saraceno, a utopia is not an endpoint, it’s just a tunnel to the necessary future. And while his idea Poetic Cosmos is whimsical and brilliantly absurd, it’s someone ironic that he presented this idea back in 2007, right around the burst of the real estate bubble. If only our economic system were filled with literal rather than metaphorical hot air, maybe we’d still be afloat!

See more here.

[Hat tip: Triangulation]


About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.