A giant eco-friendly "tree" that looks like it might have landed from another planet is offering urban dwellers and visitors an escape from the heat and stress of city streets.
Designed by London architect Laurie Chetwood, the 35-foot-tall structure — called London Oasis — looks like a tree. It has a wind turbine on top and "branches" that open and close in response to the sun, generating power from solar cells attached to them.
Inside the branches, Chetwood has made five “people pods,” which visitors pull down over their heads. Once enclosed, visitors can retreat from the busy streets to breathe clean, cooled air while relaxing to music and birdsongs.
“It’s somewhere to really get away from it all,” Chetwood said.
The entire project is powered by clean energy — from the wind turbine, to solar power and drains that collect rain for cooling and irrigation. And it has it's own Web site, thelondonoasis.com, explaining the project.
"A thermal chimney represents the trunk of this tree that helps power a turbine and creates a cooling effect around its base during the day," according to a flyer describing the sculpture. "This chimney is aided by a wind-powered turbine. Encapsulated within the chimney is a tree-like structure whose branches open and close as the sun rises and sets. The branches are dressed with photovoltaic panels that also collect rain.
"These natural resources are recycled to respond to the prevailing conditions — day, night, the seasons, the weather, pollution — in order to create a positive, enjoyable experience for the city dweller. It is designed to impact all the senses — sight, sound, taste, touch and smell but most of all, to uplift the spirit."
Topping off London Oasis is a light show at night.
"The Oasis is 'smart' in that it interacts with the environment around it," the flyer states. "It senses time, the weather, and people, and responds accordingly. At night, it uses the energy stored during the day to power a beacon in the form of a light show, which responds to the movement of people around it."
The sculpture is part of London's annual architecture week. Organizers set it up as a temporary installation at Clerkenwell Green square, but added that it could become a permanent installation there.