A building with waterfall walls that can display images and words is being designed by a team of architects and engineers.
The interactive "digital water pavilion," to be unveiled at the International Expo Zaragoza 2008 in Spain, will feature an exhibition area, café and various public spaces—all enclosed within curtains of recycled water.
The MIT team's pavilion showcases the potential of "digital water" and will be the first time that this idea has been implemented in architecture. Since recycled water is sometimes cheap and plentiful, water walls could conceivably be created on a larger scale in the future.
"To understand the concept of digital water, imagine something like an inkjet printer on a large scale, which controls droplets of falling water," said Carlo Ratti, head of MIT's SENSEable City Laboratory.
The effect is created by a row of valves spaced along a pipe suspended in the air. A computer controls the opening and closing of the valves. This produces a curtain of falling water similar to a waterfall, with gaps at specified locations. The entire surface becomes a liquid display that continuously scrolls downward. The resulting pattern of air and water droplets resembles the digital pixels used to create images on computer monitors and other displays.
The water curtains are also equipped with motion sensors. "You could throw a ball at the wall, and then see an open circle drop down to meet it precisely where and when its trajectory intersected the water surface," Mitchell explained, "and like the Red Sea for Moses, open up to allow passage through at any point."
The first international exposition took place in London in 1851. Since then, numerous expositions have been held all over the world, including the Paris Exposition of 1889, which gave birth to the Eiffel Tower.
An interactive video is available at the Digital Water Pavilion website.