Ocean simulations created with the MareNostrum supercomputer merge with Gaudí's universe in the new mapping at Casa Batlló

24 January 2024

BSC contributes high-resolution models of ocean circulation to the audiovisual work 'Structures of Being' by digital artist Sofia Crespo, which will be projected on the façade of Casa Batlló on 27 and 28 January

The new ocean models used in the work are part of Destination Earth, one of the main European research projects aimed at developing a digital twin of the Earth

"These collaborations with artists are unique opportunities to visualise scientific data for aesthetic purposes and communicate science to an audience that would be difficult to reach by other means"

The Barcelona Supercomputing Center - Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS) has collaborated with the Argentinian digital artist Sofia Crespo in the creation of the mapping 'Structures of Being', which will be projected on Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 January on the façade of Casa Batlló, an emblematic building on Barcelona's Passeig de Gràcia designed by Antoni Gaudí. The BSC has contributed high-resolution models of ocean circulation to the piece, extracted from the Destination Earth project, an initiative that plans to develop a complete virtual replica of planet Earth to predict the effects of climate change.

Sofia Crespo, a pioneer in exploring organic life and its evolution through artificial intelligence in audiovisual works, has been inspired by nature, a fundamental pillar of Gaudí's work, and by the creative universe of the greatest representative of Catalan modernism to create this piece. The Argentinean artist has used artificial neural networks, an AI method that uses algorithms to extract visual patterns from data, to create representations of living beings that never existed and thus encompass the variety of natural forms that Gaudí included in the Casa Batlló and other works, making them interact with 3D scans of the façade.

Oceanographers Joan Llort, Eduardo Moreno-Chamarro and Ingo Wagner, researchers from the Department of Earth Sciences at the BSC, have participated in the development of the aquatic sequence of the mapping, providing data on the marine currents that allow the simulation of the small eddies that form in the sea and that are crucial to understanding its dynamics and temperatures. These high-resolution simulations are part of Destination Earth (DestinE), one of the European Union's (EU) major research projects to combat climate change, in which the BSC plays a key role thanks to the high computing power of the new MareNostrum 5 supercomputer.

Art as a means of communicating science

"High-resolution models allow us to observe ocean eddies and currents at scales that are not only necessary to improve predictions, but are also beautiful. These collaborations with artists are unique opportunities to visualise scientific data for aesthetic purposes and at the same time communicate the science we do to an audience that would be difficult to reach through other means," says Llort.

DestinE uses this new generation of models to advance the development of digital twins of the Earth system, an essential tool for understanding and predicting the state of health of our planet, taking into account the effects of climate change and the evolution of natural systems such as the oceans, atmosphere and forests.

"We show visualisations of ocean currents and fluctuations in surface temperatures in the piece, which is a way of gaining perspective on natural phenomena on a larger scale, like a view of the macrocosm. This allows us to anchor the work in the present, as we can observe the patterns in a way that Gaudí could not do in his time," says Crespo, who particularly appreciates having collaborated with a local institution such as the BSC in the creation of the work.

The mapping, which has been sponsored by the Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) fair aimed at the audiovisual sector and the Fundació Barcelona Promoció, uses a state-of-the-art projection system and features music created by the generative composer Robert M. Thomas, performed by local musicians such as the organist Juan de la Rubia and the string quartet Cosmos Quartet. The screening, which can be followed free of charge in different sessions on 27 and 28 January, is also part of the activities to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Paseo de Gracia.


The models are funded by grants PID2020-114746GB-I00 (STREAM) and TED2021-129543B-I00 (GLORIA), both funded by MCIN/AEI/10.13039/501100011033 and the European Union NextGenerationEU/PRTR, and also by the Destination Earth project, an EU-funded initiative implemented by ECMWF, ESA and EUMETSAT.

Picture: High-resolution ocean circulation model (BSC)