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This Playground Is Made Almost Entirely From Air

Forget the jungle gym. This playground of the future is like bouncing around in giant bubbles.

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What would life be like inside a bubble? The latest work by Argentine architect, artist, and MIT resident Tomás Saraceno examines that question—with an inflatable, interactive sculpture recently unveiled in Milan.

On Space Time Foam, installed in the HangarBicocca, a gallery and former factory, is like a playground in the clouds. Visitors wander, climb, and crawl along a series of plastic membranes hanging 24 meters above the ground, but it’s not the plastic which defines the piece, according to the artist. "This is a sculpture made of 7,000 cubic meters of air in which you are literally sustained by air," says Saraceno. Unbeknownst to visitors, pressure within the space forces hot air into the sculpture to inflate it, a structural trick that took months of research and planning by a team of architects and engineers. (And, really, it’s the sort of piece that probably can only be understood after experiencing it for oneself.)

Saraceno is known for his work that plays with a utopian aesthetic, attempting to create structures that, by design, remove barriers between people and different disciplines, work toward self-sufficiency, and limit their own environmental impact. A future iteration of On Space Time Foam will make the project’s concern with the environment more apparent, when it travels to the Maldives as a "floating biosphere […] made habitable with solar panels and desalinated water," a reaction to the environmental destruction the islands face as a result of climate change.

Americans may remember Saraceno for his installation Cloud City in the roof garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, a series of reflective and transparent modules which just closed at the beginning of the month.