Ben Franklin Centre for Theoretical Research
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SC007: The Birdcage, A World Tourist Icon for Perth, Western Australia
Many have noted that the State of Western Australia lacks a prominent tourist icon for its capital city, Perth. This article is a draft proposal for such an icon, "The Birdcage".
The Birdcage proposal envisages a giant open dome structure, one kilometre high, over one of the city's stretches of open water, part of the Swan River. The name "Birdcage" comes from the fact that the icon has some resemblances to the upper part of an old-fashioned wire birdcage, such as that in Figure F1.
SC007-F1. Old-fashioned wire birdcage. From .
The Birdcage would be located above an area of the Swan River, "Perth Water", in the centre of the City of Perth.
SC007-F2. Location of "The Birdcage" on Perth Water. (Credit: Google Earth).
The structure would be supported on three legs, 120 degrees apart on the perimeter of the Birdcage, together with appropriate supporting ribs, to give an open tracery resembling a birdcage. At the top of the cage would be a 2- or 3-storey cap containing viewing points, restaurants, and other tourist facilities.
An impression of the icon is given in Figure F3. This is only intended to give an idea of its shape -- the surface structure and decoration would be decided before implementation.
SC007-F3. Impression of the Perth Birdcage.
Basics of the Proposal
At this stage, only some basic points of the proposal are being laid out. These are as follows.
1. Form of the Icon. The Icon will be an engineered structure in the form of an open hemisphere and trio of supporting legs, surmounted by a tourist facility ("The Calyx") at an elevation of at least 1 kilometre (1000 metres) above ground level.
2. Location of the Icon. The Icon will be situated above the section of the River Swan known as Perth Water, in the City of Perth , Western Australia. Only the feet of the Icon will be on land, most of the structure will be above water.
3. The Tourist Structure. The Calyx will be a 2- or 3-storey structure of a decorative shape, surmounting the Birdcage. It will be accessed from the ground from one of the six Carriage Tracks, with the three pairs of these Tracks along the three support legs.
4. The Track Carriages. The Track Carriages will consist of individual cars carrying passengers and supply items, each individually powered by Flywheels (see Technical Innovation section below). There may be connections within the Calyx for moving various Carriages between the main tracks.
5. The Birdcage Surfaces. No pre-conceived limitations are applied for the appearance, underlying structures, decoration, lighting, traceries etc.
6. Proposal Development. The basic proposal leaves enormous scope for architectural, artistic, and technical development, and it is suggested that its implementation be subjected to an International Competition.
Although the Icon proposed is highly innovative, the engineering and structural requirements are not likely to be especially extreme, as hemispherical dome shapes are particularly stable.
While innovative in the current context, the proposed Flywheel-driven Carriages to travel up and down the legs have a solid history of use in such things as passenger-carrying buses in Switzerland and elsewhere , and do not present any special difficulty.
Discussion points (resolution of some points will affect the relevance of others)
A. The theoretical horizon for an elevation of 1000 metres is over 112 kilometres distant. For an observer in Perth at this height, the townships of York, Mandurah, Toodyay, and Lancelin should all be visible, also ships far out to sea. Powerful electronic telescopes could feed display screens of distant points to visitors.
B. While the Calyx of the Birdcage will cast some shade, because of its location and elevation, shading should not be a problem. During summer months, most of the shade will be cast on the river beneath, while in winter days, the shading will be a thin arc on parts of South Perth. The body of the Birdcage, below the Calyx, will be an open structure casting little shade.
C. Technical Innovation. Because they are independently driven from their internal flywheels, the Carriages conveying people and goods between ground level and the upper Calyx can be used very flexibly. In normal use, most carriages would be moving passengers up and down the twin tracks on the three Legs, but carriages could be switched between legs via the Calyx, or move upwards or downwards on both tracks at once. Special carriages could be switched in to carry freight, or act as relief rescue from a possible jammed carriage, or carry out specialized engineering work. No looping power cords, as in conventional lifts, would be needed.
D. There is great scope for innovative and artistic colouring and light patterning of the surfaces above the Calyx, the upper dome tracery, and the lower cylindrical section, each of which could be separately fitted. At night, the Birdcage would be very visible from aircraft and from space. Lighting patterns could be dynamic, presenting a moving panorama.
E. Surprisingly, the views from sites in the inner city of Perth would not be dramatically altered, because most of the Birdcage surfaces would be well above 100 metres high, the height of a 30-storey building. Views across Perth Water would be uninterrupted -- the only (not especially noticeable) features at ground level would be the Birdcage Legs.
F. The extent and visual impact of the Birdcage from the suburbs and outer areas around Perth would depend on the amount of eye-attracting treatment on the dome surfaces. If these had mostly open tracery and thin connecting cables at height, they would not be very obvious, and the Calyx would appear almost as a small dark cloud. If the surfaces had extended lighting and coloured surfaces, the Birdcage would be more prominent.
G. The flywheels driving the Carriages would make them quite an efficient mode of transport, they would be "spun-up" as necessary from electric charging points at ground or Calyx level. While ascending cars would draw heavily on the flywheels, descending cars would automatically re-charge them from electric braking -- the only loss of energy would be friction in the tracks. Drive flywheels have been successfully used in buses, cars, and trains , even in racing cars (to provide acceleration spurts). Friction within flywheels can be much reduced or eliminated completely using magnetic bearings within a vacuum, and a proposal exists  for an even more powerful variant called a Power Torus.
SC007-F4. Swiss Gyrobus topping up its flywheel.
H. The Land required for the Birdcage icon would be very minimal -- only enough to seat the three Legs, and these would all be on land currently in public ownership, and so not a source of large expense.
I. The Birdcage should be very safe, compared to other giant structures built by man. While measures to prevent things falling would be built in, any unexpected falling object would come down in the water below the icon.
SC007-F5. View of Birdcage from above.
J. The Birdcage would be an International Drawcard, a sufficient single reason for an overseas visitor to want to visit Western Australia. Visitor facilities in the Calyx could be superior to those available anywhere else on Earth..
Summary of the Icon
The proposed Perth Birdcage would form a powerful international Icon, instantly identifying the city, comparable to the Eiffel Tower for Paris.
SC007-F6. Perth and the Perth Birdcage, from 4000 metres elevation.
The Birdcage would itself form a principal tourist and visitor attraction, sufficient to draw in viewers from interstate and overseas, rather than being just a sight to see when visiting Perth for other reasons.
It would thus greatly promote tourism to Perth and Western Australia, as a major drawcard. Because of the Flywheel Carriages used, it would also act as a showcase for technical innovation in the State.
References and Links
 Flower icons in iOS, Material, Windows, and other design styles. https://icons8.com/icons/set/flower .
 Bronze Birdcage. https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/457608012110271379/# .
 David Noel. DS903: The KPW (Kilogram Power Wheel) -- A domestic power storage device replacing batteries. http://www.aoi.com.au/devices/KPW/ .
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Assembly begun 2020 Aug 9.
Version 1.0. Last updated 2021 Mar 1. On Web 2021 Mar 1.