Project: Tower 2.0
Location: Antwerp, Belgium
Architect: Daniel Tellman
Company: PLANCONTROL – www.plancontrol.ro
Photographs: Pieterjan Grandry, Frank Wouters, Cobalt123, McKay Savage, Kevin Adams and Bill Tyne
“Designing Absence” idea contest for imagining the second tower of the Antwerp Cathedral was surprisingly fresh and rich in potential. The conditions were very simple: no participation fee, no restrictions, no sophisticated requirements only a single image provided, and some basic rules.
The task on the other hand, rather challenging: to complete the south tower of the Cathedral of Our Lady – a national monument and part of the list of World Heritage Sites – by taking into account what the organizers emphasized : “… absence creates a blank canvas for today. By generating ideas for a new tower, we can put a focus on the cathedral itself. The given fact of an absent element within an existing structure functions as a great generator for ideas”.
By generating ideas in this context the contest has similar aims as the work of Cristo & Jean – Claude, Zevs or Alexandre Orion. Having in mind the nature of the building and that of the contest, we considered a different approach is needed in order to obtain a plausible and “buildable” solution.
In medieval times the cathedral was the highest and the most representative building of the city. Its tower was a landmark that offered guidance in the city’s winding streets and beyond. As a “Fortress of Knowledge” the cathedral served the community and the clergy as principal holder of written information, offering a space for social interaction and refuge in troubled times.
In a brief overview of the elements that define the cathedral, we can identify five main components: physical, sacred, social, educational and informational. Using augmented reality, our proposal enables us to emulate most of the components of the actual cathedral, integrating in the existing environment. By doing so, in TOWER 2.0 one can find typical functions of a cathedral (social, educational and informational), but the virtual level and on a planetary scale!
We imagined the new tower as a smartphone app, which functions as a gateway between users and a server that hosts information about the cathedral. The tower itself would be three-dimensional representation of this information, shape changing depending on the download or upload stats, the type and quantity of information hosted and also of user interaction. Structured on three levels dedicated to tourists, specialists and the local community, the virtual tower is pinpointed to its location by GPS coordinates. Different than the existing one, the augmented tower has only one “clock” facing the Cathedral’s Parvise. Due to this fact a distant user must follow the app’s internal compass and “search” for the tower, offering him the satisfaction of realizing his spatial positioning relative to Antwerp and the Cathedral. Only when the user, phone and tower are aligned will the data structures be accessible, of course after some zooming and rotating, depending on the user’s position.
The local community can expand due to the envisioned app to a global community, who themselves can relate and identify with the cathedral not only in its immediate surroundings but also from anywhere around the globe.
A Cathedral will always be a landmark which offers guidance in its city, harbors knowledge and connects people. “Tower 2.0 is therefore very much present on its user’s minds, yet it remaining absent for those who chose not to look at it.