One of the great pleasures in cover the green building beat is reading about the annual eVolo Magazine Skyscraper Competition. Since 2006, the publication has gathered more than 5,000 of the most outlandish, clever and magical (if not impossible) skyscraper designs and sketches in the world. The breadth of experience behind these entries is vast, ranging from unknown architecture students to some of the world’s most successful firms.
This year, a jury of leaders in the architecture and design fields chose three winning entries and 24 honorable mentions out of a total of 625 projects submitted from 83 countries. As in most years, the designs are almost more about the amazing advances in architectural rendering software than in practical designs that will see the light of day. The winning entries for 2013 have a distinctly lighter-than-air feel, but they were designed to help ameliorate some weighty environmental issues.
$5,000 First Place Prize: Polar Umbrella
Derek Pirozzi, United States
The designers of this winning entry are not content merely to reach the heavens; they want to use architecture to rebuild the planet’s melting ice caps. With “Polar Umbrella,” Derek Pirozzi envisions an enormous, translucent dome-like structure that is held aloft by a massive central pillar that floats in the Arctic Ocean and acts as a research laboratory, eco-tourist attraction and wildlife habitat.
Inside the structure, a desalinization plant will generate renewable osmotic energy, or salinity gradient power, based on the differences in salinity between seawater and fresh water. The fresh water will then be used for drinking and also frozen to help rebuild the melting icecaps. The giant canopy, nearly as wide as the Empire State Building is tall, will generate solar power through a brackish water circulatory system while also reducing solar gain on the ice below to encourage ice growth.
No details were given about how it would perform in a stiff breeze.
$2,000 Second Place Prize: Phobia Skyscraper
Darius Maïkoff and Elodie Godo, France
With an eye toward revitalizing the forgotten Petite Ceinture industrial area of Paris, these French architects are taking prefabrication technology to new heights, literally. Starting with two large concrete slabs on the ground and an empty tower grid made of scavenged recycled materials, the “Phobia Skyscraper” would be built of thousands of prefab units stacked together like Lego blocks and embedded into the support structure.
The result resembles a giant coral reef in the sky, with tiny jagged boxes covering the surface and formed around common green spaces, or “nuclei centers.” Each of the prefab units would have the ability to pivot and thus change the shape of the building, depending on the tenants’ needs. Each unit would have its own solar panel and rainwater harvesting systems.