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Barcelona 2159 Time Capsule

March 26, 2010

Ponder. Dream. Leave your message for the future.

Barcelona is sending itself a message in a bottle. Or rather, a giant stainless steel capsule. To celebrate urban planner Ildefons Cerda‘s vision of this city 150 years ago, a multidisciplinary team of scientists, anthropologists and designers are collecting messages from individuals that envision what Barcelona will look like in another 150 years. The collaboration between Any Cerdà and the UPC (Polytechnic University of Catalonia) is gathering thousands of messages on the Barcelona2159 website, which will be stored inside a big ‘ol mechanical Time Capsule specially designed to preserve the digital data, and that will be opened up in Barcelona in the year 2159.

La cápsula del tiempo de Barcelona mide dos metros

Designed by ONIS design studio, the 2-meter-tall, 1-meter-wide stainless steel capsule is comprised of a base and a vessel, the latter containing a lead box which itself contains a glass urn sealed in nitrogen to prevent oxidation of the electronic components that will be store information for 150 years. A mechanical system will allow the capsule to be progressively opened: Each year, a Barcelonian will turn the cylinder 2.4 degrees until it reaches 350 degrees 150 years from now, unlocking the message habored in its interior.

But it wouldn’t be much fun for us mortals if we weren’t able to see its contents in the meantime, so the information will be transmitted optically onto a mirror at its base, albeit somewhat distortedly, as soon as the capsule is put on public display, the details of which will be revealed on June 11th, the final day of the Year of Cerdà. Scientist and project coordinator Javier Peña has said it will most likely be kept inside a museum or cathedral, as these buildings “endure through time.”

Until now, the deposited texts, images, videos and webcams range from the somewhat realistic, fantastical, cynical, political, artistic, or just plain silly, with more than a few cheeky ones predicting Sagrada Familia’s epic finalization.

On Gaudí's famously unfinished Sagrada Familia cathedral: "Finished!"

barcelona2159: "As usual, full of tourists"

"Will this be the future of Boqueria Market?" | Bcn's famous food market teletransports products from anywhere in the world.

Eixamplified: Cerdà's characteristic Eixample design overtakes an expanding Barcelona

Some think we'll have no choice but to build out to sea...

...Yet others think Barcelona will be somewhere in China!

According to Hiroshi Tsonuda, it’ll be no TV vs. more crazy buildings and fast food, with a few flying saucers and floating islands in between:

This guys predicts we’ll forego the need for cars as we whiz around and walk on air with the help of some sort of magnetic “flying soles”:

A video of how the capsule works in 3D:

In this video, local architects like Oriol Bohigas (who we talked about in our Diagonal Redesign post) to foreign architects like Richard Rogers talk about what Barcelona’s future should look like:

Sure, it’s a bit of a wacky promotional stunt for the city, but the act of recording a city’s collective memory of and for the future is an engaging and positive way of taking the pulse of a city, and something that can spark meaningful thought today and provide valuable hindsight tomorrow on the evolution of our built environment.

Barcelona’s locals con post their visions of its future until June 10 via snail mail or directly on the website, where you can also see all the entries.

You can also follow @barcelona2159 on twitter and facebook

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