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Skyscraper Competition

After sorting through old emails, I stumbled upon an invitation to compete in a Skyscraper design competition from my friend Patrick T. Hoffman. I was in a Native American class at the time, so everything I was reading was very earthy/natural, as reflected in my comments, but I still think there’s some interesting stuff there.

The competition was the 2011 eVolo Skyscraper Competition that aimed to promote “innovative concepts for vertical density” and “examines the relationship between the skyscraper and the natural world…the community…and the city.” Providing a venue to creatively re-imagine skyscrapers of tomorrow, the competition asked entries to address the questions “What is a skyscraper in the 21st century? What are the historical, contextual, social, urban, and environmental responsibilities of these mega-structures?”

My original reply was a little too futuristic / science fiction, but I’ve included it anyway, with minimal editing:

Urban / vertical farming should play a central role. I would stick to a functional core concept and design around that.

Biggest problem? Population. People can learn to use smaller, adaptive living spaces, and they can learn to eat different food, but they cannot learn to not eat.

Other core things are thermal comfort (not necessarily with a high level of individual controls, just bearable.. we can let our bodies adjust back to more natural weather patterns.) Perhaps we could use the natural high-altitude winds as a cross-ventilation and cooling mechanism for the building? I think a 150 floor solar chimney would be awesome (if impractical from a lighting standpoint, except at high noon when the sun shines straight down it. However, interesting shapes / patterns might be able to allow “staggering” the chimney light entrance to various levels. Same goes for ventilation, if it would work at all at that scale.

I wonder how this could be tied to behavioral / social characteristics of the buildings occupants. The buildings would have to be a rather large (necessary for accommodating the “vertical density” to be required for tomorrow’s buildings) so it would be infeasible to expect the change required for people to climb ~100 stories daily… that’s intense, and unnatural.. but perhaps tying the building to its occupants by having a culture in which things like a sensor-ed version of Vibram Five Fingers are worn in the building (and out) that “connect” the building, its occupants, and even the outdoors would be interesting. I wonder what the mobilities story in the future sky scraper could look like.. surely there’s a better mode of indoor mobility than the classic 1D elevator?

It would be amazing if we could genetically engineer a 100 story giant hollow-esque tree or other living structure (with a rapidly accelerated growth process) to provide the backbone for a building… now that would be awesome. Or some other bio-inspired membrane for heating/cooling and energy? I read in a couple different books 1- a building that had something like the skin of an animal.. like, living, breathing flesh… and 2- a building that actually received and radiated energy (radiation) mimicking the natural environment around it.. undetectable to anything, leaving no trace. How do animals and plants heat and cool themselves? Evapotranspiration is one way (I think it serves in this capacity to a degree, at least). I heard about native american philosophy today that states that everything should be made of locally sourced natural materials that decay over time.. the idea is that when we’re gone, we shouldn’t leave any trace of our existence on the natural environment.. I read something similar in another book, that questioned what the long stretches of roads would be look like to an outside race that came to our planet long after we’re gone.. and I think about this all the time when driving down the interstate.

These thoughts are obviously crudely crafted, but I thought it better to share and discuss than let sit in my inbox. So…fire away any thoughts you might have on the subject :-)

Posted in Ramblin' Thoughts.

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