Tomás Saraceno: On space time foam

On Space Time Foam is the work created by Tomás Saraceno for the “Cubo” at HangarBicocca, in Milan, which, for the occasion, has become the ideal habitat for an outstanding art esperience.

Tomás Saraceno (b. San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina, 1973) is an artist and architect internationally known for his visionary and surprising installations accessible to the public and able to modify the perception of architectural spaces. His oeuvre, inspired by the tradition of 20th-century utopian architecture, stems from the desire to create aerial structures that can be inhabited by people, are self-sufficient and have a low environmental impact.

On Space Time Foam is an installation that incorporates the space for which it was designed, altering its form and function: a work that is fully realized only upon activating the dual opportunity of being observed from below and accessed from above.


The starting point and image/symbol of the project is the drawing of the physicist Paul Davies, which conveys the central idea underlying On Space Time Foam: the coexistence and mutual dependence of people above and below the membranes, as their movements, breathing and actions influence each other and the surrounding space. With each movement of air – the opening of a door, a visitor moving about, the breath of just one individual – the installation changes form as if it were a living organism. The movement of a person concentrated on one point of the layer affects the one underneath, modifying the landscape in its entirety.

At first glance, the work seems to be composed of three clear PVC membranes suspended at a height of 24 meters, which visitors can access to observe the space below. Just a second later, however, visitors realize that the work is constituted chiefly by what they cannot see. As the artist himself states, “This is a sculpture made of 7,000 cubic meters of air in which you are literally sustained by air.” 


The work, whose development took months of planning and experimentation with a multidisciplinary team of architects and engineers, will then continue as an important project during a residency of the artist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT in Cambridge (MA).

On Space Time Foam has been inspired by the theories of quantum physics, according to which the fundamental layer of existence, the conformation of the universe on the smallest scale, defined “Planck scale”, is structured like a foam. The very title of the work encompasses these three dimensions, “Space-Time-Foam”, announcing a place in which space and time change coordinates, as is the case in Cosmic Foam, which cannot be conceived in the physical parameters to which we are accustomed. “Quantum foam” is a concept of quantum mechanics, a description of subatomic time-space, about which we can only speculate today: On Space Time Foam explores and symbolizes these infinite possibilities, serving as a metaphor. Lastly, Saraceno suggests several images that can serve as keys to interpreting the work, including that of the drumhead on which everything reverberates and that of the “Cubo” as an immense musical instrument that vibrates with the passage of air.


After the exhibition at HangarBicocca, On Space Time Foam may acquire yet another form, travelling over the Maldives, where Saraceno dreams of seeing his installation soar, transforming it into a floating structure sustained by helium and solar energy. It will shift from a space of interaction to an airborne island, with an eye to the islands that lose centimeters of land every year due to parallel causes.

 Credit Photos – Alessandro Coco