Tower 2.0

… an augmented reality app for the smarter phone users out there!

Launched at the beginning of February , the brainstorming/contest ” Designing Absence ” for imagining the second tower for 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 simple 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

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.

Given the importance of the building and the nature of the contest we considered that a different approach was needed in order to obtain a plausible and “buildable” solution.

This in where today’s technology comes in handy. Augmented reality is a developing and still untapped field which is growing along with today’s demand for technology. In our case it gives us the opportunity to emulate part of the attributes a built tower would have, without actually building it!

We imagined the new tower as a smart phone app, which functions as a gateway between users and a server hosting information related to the cathedral. The tower itself would be the representation of that information, constantly changing in shape depending on the type of information the server holds, the upload and download rates or the interaction with the user ( perhaps Voronoi ? ).


Structured on three levels dedicated to tourists, specialists and the local community, the virtual tower is pinpointed to it’s 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.

In order to Give Back we imagined that the app could be available for a small fee and that part or all the money raised by selling it could go to the local community in order to be reinvested in green initiatives. By doing so Tower 2.0 will should be able to achieve carbon neutrality.

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 – thus a truly Absent Design !

thanks to : Frank Wouters, cobalt123, McKay  Savage, Kevin  Adams and Bill  Tyne for licensing their works under Creative Commons licences. Also kudos to TokyoFlash for imagining the Tibida watch. With the next occasion I’ll complete my collection with it!

Late edit:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

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