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Iconic London Building Sets Sail As A Floating Airship

James Bridle's Unmoored takes the Brutalist complexity of the Barbican Centre and casts it adrift across the world.

Barbican Centre. Image via 

The idea of a building that can float along like an airship sounds like a concept from science-fiction, but artist James Bridle's new project Unmoored has made it a reality. In the virtual realm at least. Bridle has taken one of London's icons of Brutalist architecture, the Barbican Centre, and sent it drifting across the city and the globe, imagining where it might end up if it was at the mercy of the British weather.


"Unmoored reimagines the Barbican Centre as a vast brutalist airship, torn free of its surroundings and taking to the sky, buffeted by summer winds and driven across the country, and the world." says Bridle. The ship's path is determined by live data taken from a weather station that's been placed on the roof of the Barbican, which makes a note of the wind speed and direction. Bridle then maps its path on Google Maps and uses Google Earth to visualize what the ship's seeing, giving us a view from the bow.

The weather station atop the Barbican. Image via James Bridle

At the time of writing, the image below is what could be seen from the deck, as the building drifted somewhere around northeast London peering out towards the Thames Estuary. Nothing too spectacular, but that's digitized suburbia for you. As well as online you can also look out this virtual window in the foyer of the Barbican.

Bridle calls the project "a piece of London, unevenly distributed" and it follows on from a project called A Ship Adrift which used a similar concept, but that ship was piloted by a "lost, mad AI autopilot". Whereas that ship was exploring the coexistence of bots/AI and us humans, this one is more a fantasy voyage, a collective journey that links the physical world, through the weather, with the virtual planes of Google Earth.

You can follow the floating Barbican's erratic path here and look out the window here. It's part of the Hack the Barbican event which is taking place until 31st August.