Back in August, we reported that Siemens would be cutting the ribbon this fall on its brand-new, ultra-green building in London, The Crystal. Now the leaves are falling, Halloween is just weeks away, and that multinational powerhouse of renewable energy tech (among other things) has opened the Crystal to the world. The building officially opened its doors on September 29, just in time for the Newham Waterfront Festival, with a global conference on sustainable cities and a public exhibition.
Greenbiz’s Mark Alan Hughes was on hand for the conference, along with some 300 mayors and thought leaders from around the world. Among those thought leaders were UN Under-Secretary-General and UN-Habitat Executive Director Joan Clos, who kicked off the conference with a discussion framed by a question: Why were the UN and Siemens — ultimate examples of the public and private sectors — co-sponsoring a conference? His answer, essentially, was this: as long as we continue to build buildings, rather than cities, we’re wasting money and negatively impacting human life. Clos and the other opening speakers highlighted green infrastructure and city planning as both an ecological and economic opportunity, and one on which the public and private sector need to collaborate.
Those who ventured through the doors of this distinctively shaped, glass-clad structure in a less formal context — i.e., not to attend the conference, but simply to check out the building — were treated to what Siemens characterizes as the “world’s largest exhibition on the future of cities.” This fully interactive exhibition, encompassing 2,000 square meters (of the building’s total 6,300) featured two “immersive” film theaters and more than 50 screens, with a plethora of games and experiences designed to help visitors explore the cities of the future.
This whole ‘cities of the future’ thing is, as you might imagine, part of Siemens’ overall vision for green technology and its place in our lives. That vision is encapsulated by Siemens’ Sustainable Cities initiative, which includes detailed recommendations on how to help America’s largest urban area – the City of New York – plan for more sustainable growth. Siemens also worked with The U.S. Conference of Mayors to get a handle on the big problems facing the nation’s urban centers, and has some big ideas for how to address those problems via smart grid, renewable energy generation, and other technology it has a hand in. The Crystal is the corporate headquarters for the company’s Sustainable Cities initiative.
Some highlights of this interactive exhibit include a Tesla coil in the ‘Go Electric’ area where visitors can ‘create electricity’ by just by wiggling around, apparently — the the coil responds to body movements. Another exhibit in the ‘Creating Cities’ space allows visitors to take their Sim City aspirations one step further by becoming the mayor of a city and working with other ‘city experts’ to make decisions about their city looks and works.
In the transportation area, you’ll find electric cars, or course, as well as an electric motorbike and bicycle. The ‘Future Life’ offers visitors a big-screen idea of what life might our cities might look like in 2050, a la Epcot Center. The exhibition was designed in conjunction with the UK national curriculum, and is appropriate for students ages 11 through college, as well as the public at large. According to Siemens, the exhibit offers a science-based angle on some of the world’s most significant technological advances.