Passing Cloud by Tiago Barros


Passing Cloud by Tiago Barros

If you're not worried about where you go or how fast you get there, this enormous inflatable cloud is the mode of transport for you.

Passing Cloud by Tiago Barros

Predominant winds would determine the routes and speed of the hovering cloud, which would move from place to place without any fixed destinations.

Passing Cloud by Tiago Barros

Passengers would board the cloud using ladders and would simply sit on the surface during travel.

Passing Cloud by Tiago Barros

Inside the nylon-covered balloon, a steel skeleton like that of a zeppelin airship would support the object’s structure.

Passing Cloud by Tiago Barros

New York architect Tiago Barros proposed the design for a transport network of floating clouds in the sky to the Van Alen Institute and the Department of Cultural Affairs of New York City, who were expecting competition entries for a high-speed rail network.

Passing Cloud by Tiago Barros

We also published a story about a city on a cloud back in 2007 - see our earlier story here and see more projects that feature weather here.

Passing Cloud by Tiago Barros

If airships are your thing, see more of them here.

Here's some more from the architect:

Passing Cloud

Passing Cloud is a recently submitted project for the international ideas competition: Life at the Speed of Rail, organised by the Van Alen Institute and partly funded by the Department of Cultural Affairs of New York City.

Although it wasn’t one of the winning proposals, Passing Cloud reveals a strong conceptual approach that is worth noting: It is a new vision on traveling, based on the old Zeppelins.

Nowadays, traveling is achieved with this idea of having a fixed destination and an estimated time of arrival. Passing Cloud completely inverts this system. A floating device is introduced that travels around the entire USA territory according to current predominant winds. It has no fixed time of arrival or place for arrival. The journey becomes the essence. Imagine traveling at wind speeds in a totally sustainable object that leaves no Human trace behind.

This project envisions a distinct approach towards moving around the United States being also a revival of the act of traveling. Why traveling at high speed? Why having the final destiny always defined? And why always departing and arriving on a tight schedule? Nowadays, everything is set and everyone is always running around. It is time to reconsider the act of traveling and start enjoying it accordingly.

The Passing Cloud is an innovative and environmentally friendly method of transportation that doesn’t require expensive steel tracks or concrete highways. It is made of a series of spherical balloons that form the shape of a cloud. Its inner stainless steel structure is covered with heavy weight tensile nylon fabric. During the journey, It moves according to prevailing winds speed and direction at the time of travel. Since it moves with the wind, no wind is ever felt during the trip, offering the passengers a full “floating sensation”.

It’s an unique journey. The feeling of floating in the atmosphere – on top of a cloud – with an open schedule and unknown final destiny. All National Ground would be potentially covered at virtually no cost and the help of the wind. The journey becomes your destiny.

Project data:

Organiser: Van Alen Institute
Competition: June 2011
Design Team: Tiago Barros
Location: USA

  • mmmmmh

    that looks like a bunch of testicles

    • Lilan Pan

      see Louise Bourgeois' "Cumul"

  • Alex Levin

    amazing concept — people on top of the hot air balloon. and the first pic is so majestic! I really hope this gets made but am extremely skeptical.

  • mms

    Love it!!! I'd take that!

  • Chuck Anziulewicz

    Are you going to float this with hydrogen or helium? Hydrogen is plentiful, but it's also inflammable. Helium isn't inflammable, but supplies are limited, and prices are going up.

  • Ed Arthur

    My design unit in my architecture postgrad did pretty much exactly this a few years back! Didn't have people walking on the surface of it though! Same concept of taking your time to travel and using different directions of winds at different altitudes etc. Oh well – nice to see we weren't totally crazy after all!

  • SSSO

    One of the most completely un-thought out concepts I've ever seen.

    It could land in the ocean.
    People would fall off by the dozens.
    It could pop.
    You will land in a city you have no connections out.


  • Red Pill Junkie

    A transport like this is more suited for a Miyasaki film than real life, but it's still a pretty neat proposal :)

  • amsam

    Even as a piece of pure whimsy, this is pretty underimagined.

  • bob ross

    looks like a recipe for disaster

  • elleryxo


  • Ebru Kandilci

    I really like the idea of being on the clouds:)=…it's poetic to use for transportation.

  • User

    wow, i hope those people up there will have some sort of heating clothes on…
    it's really, really cold up there…
    but seriously, what a stupid idea :)

  • sorbus

    Oh, the humanity!

  • zhzh

    it looks like a true disaster in reality!

  • Laila Al Nasseri


  • tanyatelford

    a bit like sailing?……

  • JuiceMajor

    Dreamy is good…keeps the creativity juice flowing! I would take the ride!!

  • JoshuaV

    I think it's a fantastic idea! very imaginitive and funny. it's nice to see designers not taking themselves too seriously all the time. Some of you people need to lighten up, haha.

  • john morgan

    What would you actually see sat on a cloud, and does it not get
    rather cold at cloud height?
    I like the idea but don't give up the day job just yet.

    • Red Pill Junkie

      >What would you actually see sat on a cloud

      Flying saucers, of course ^_^

    • Pete

      Yep on a cloudy day you would see nothing but clouds. I think it would like this:

      “Hey Bob, you cold?”


      “When can we get off this thing?”

      “No idea.”

      “Bob this really sucks.”


  • piljulee

    Imagination is beyond our hard work.

  • @ASternWarning

    "Transport" indicates it's taking you somewhere… this could go anywhere or nowhere. Either way, you can't dictate where it takes you.

  • montaigne

    Passing gas?

  • phil g

    On a par with tying yourself to a inflatable lilo and see where you wash up…

  • Tony

    "wow, i hope those people up there will have some sort of heating clothes on…
    it's really, really cold up there…
    but seriously, what a stupid idea :) "

    Well, they'd need more than heating clothes; they'd also each need a breathing apparatus at the heights a balloon can reach.

    It's okay that the designer decided to have a laugh, but it's not actually a very imaginative or revealing spoof of an idea. A child could have come up with a more clever joke. And to see it described in the blog post as having a "strong conceptual approach" leaves me nonplussed.

  • john

    i mean , seriously? is this a movie?

  • Suzaan

    NO No no !!! I cant stand there.It seems so scary.

  • mik

    the concept should have been better developed so it doesn't look so impossible

  • airborn

    Dad, can you make this for me on the computer? I don't know son, what is it? A cloud with people on it? Where do they go? Oh, dad…….everywhere…… I think, why should you go anywhere specific. Hmmmm, my son is a genius.

  • p3rry

    just thinking,
    WHY are architects so fascinated with zeppelins?
    you can see them on many renders too…

    • @jrlemaster

      relying on sublime imagery sells projects better

  • @jrlemaster

    i can finally live out my dream of becoming one of the cloud people from James and the Giant Peach!

  • coaster

    Easier to just tie thousands of balloons to your house an go Up!

  • kaltz

    Looks like a good idea, but it's not…I have been in clouds, it looks just like a dense fog. Do you like the fog…? And as a means of transportation, it would need a strong wind, and strong winds are associated with bad weather…no good.

  • Phil

    "that looks nice daddy lets go for a ride"…. ten minutes later "oh, we are dead"

  • TTH

    the next challenge is to look for people who believe and work together.
    cos the majority of people will just laugh.

  • Fizz Fieldgrass

    Do I detect a Health and Safety issue somewhere here?

  • mik

    what a big silly ussless piece of nothing

  • Ece Cenker

    Cute fantasy =).

  • imanonymous

    When a designer designs a home, the design is constrianed by the different technical requirements, which might not be very demmanding and therefore the design can be a free-form house.

    When a designer designs a medium of transportation, such as your case Tiago, the technical requirements are normally pretty high and therefore the design does not accept any type of form, but the form that follows the maximum efficiency. for the function of the object designed. If the global form is absolutely independent to the main functions of the aircraft, it is very unlikely it will be efficient and environmentally friendly. Unfortunatly Tiago, designing an aircraft is not as easy as puting a bunch of ballons together.

    I would suggest you to look carefully how zeppelins were designed, identify which are these technical constrains and see how form can be modified to improve their main functions…and I would recommend not put people on top of the ballons as if they are doing picnic in a park…hollywood movies taught us what would happen in an airplane if one of the small windows breaks down.

  • Romain

    I agree with the above comment : had the designers tested a scale model in a denser environment (water perhaps) they certainly would have found a number of problems with the current form, say stability or buoyancy as well as wind drag….

    Adding ballasts and other appendages to compensate would be overengineering.

    Not to mention death from exposure and asphyxiation…. but the designers wanted to redesign our skies, a poetic endeavour.

  • jas


  • vampire

    relax guys, this is only Artsy Fartsy ;P

  • @fatomousso

    Isn't it cold up in the clouds?

  • MM Jones

    This is a good example of why people don't take architects more seriously.

  • LadyJ

    A lovely whimsy… but someone's spent a lot of time and effort on a dream that's never gonna manifest. Sorry to get my clipboard out and go all Health & Safety, but would YOU want to slide off it from that height?!

  • Conan the blacksmith

    Can the passengers sniff all the helium and talk with squeaky voices for the entire journey?

  • Lster

    This is some mad Lando Calrissian shizzle right here.

  • Naimit

    Hmmm. How can I get my name in the news with only three or four minutes of investment? Ooh, I know! Something obvious! Something overdone! Something assuredly deadly! And if someone doesn't like it, I can claim they're dead inside!

    Wow. That only took two minutes. I cut my investment in half! Now to submit this as an actual project…

  • Peter


  • aurelia-m

    Amazing project. I would like to be one of the first to try it!

  • Jose

    Una palabra: ABSURDO.