Planners have long argued against suburban sprawl for the possible health effects it has on residents who are able to avoid physical exercise from behind the wheel. California Polytechnic State University architecture students Thomas Shorey, Ryan Nevius and Baptiste Roult have approached design as health promoter in a more urban manner: design a city vertically to force physical movement and better health.

Their Sky District plan abandons the typical design of buildings where visitors are distributed to floors via easily accessible elevators, saying that method offers “poor architectural design, consumes finite resources and promotes a lazy way of life.” Instead, they propose, arrange city blocks vertically and offer skip-stop elevators and attractive stairways that reward climbers with impressive city views. Not only does this encourage walking, they say, but it also increases opportunities for public interaction. Read the rest of this entry »

If the S.M.A.R.T. tower appears to be in constant motion, it’s only because the structure is covered by a swarm of 100,000 robot bees.

S.M.A.R.T. stands for Swarm Manufacturing and Augmented Reality Technology. Using CAD and LPS (Local Positioning System) data, the bees can be programmed to augment the structure virtually, turning virtual information and data into physical realities. The concept is the vision of Seoul, Korea architects Yoon H. Kim and Yang-Kyu Han.

These bees aren’t interested in honey: these workers will actually build a structure. Each robot is capable of using cartridges filled with agents that enable them to construct literal physical material, which the designers dub “augmented synthetic material.” An amassing of this material forms skyscraper that is conductive, allowing electricity and data to flow throughout the skin of the structure which enables the pulses to be directed to very specific locations. Read the rest of this entry »

The Acadia Tree tower design by Czech architect Petr Pospisil operates from the basic observation that as cities grow and density rises, precious ground space takes on new importance. The design for the Acadia Tree allows for an exciting high rise that is both monumental in scale and look and has a small footprint on the city below.

Three long legs rise high and support a complex of living and commercial spaces on top. The legs themselves have many functions: they house office spaces, the are the location of elevators that whisk people to the tower’s top, and they have plants growing in a middle groove, bringing living foliage to the whole length of the tower, culminating in plentiful green space on the complex that rests on top of the pillars.

The relaxing, green area perched on the three legs is meant to resemble a bird’s nest, providing secure housing, protection and respite. With expanses of grass, trees and even swimming pools, residents living in apartments on this tower enjoy leafy environs and fantastic views. Each apartment even has its own large, landscaped terrace. Read the rest of this entry »

Hong Kong architectural graduate student Kenneth Cheung Shiu Lun is worried about human kind’s consumption. We are killing the earth, Lun argues, and will soon make our own kind extinct as we deplete the planet’s resources.

In Noah’s Tower, Lun has designed an architectural island where the mantra “survival of the fittest” means that those brave enough to leave land will live on into the future. Noah’s Tower, playing off the story of Noah’s Ark, comes with a tagline: “It’s time to face it. Architecture without ground.”

As the earth’s land disappears, refugees gather on temporary floating islands before arriving to the Noah’s Tower complex, which is a series of towers connected by bridges that float and move with the waves and are interchangeable to allow for new linkages as the city grows.

The bridges linking the towers serve a special purpose: not only do they connect the expatriate community, but they serve as a link for residents to the world they left behind. The floating bridges are comprised of two levels, the bottom serving for traffic and the top covered in trees, bringing a connection to nature and the environment that has been lost for residents. Read the rest of this entry »

Egyptian architects and engineers Gehan Ahmed Nagy Radwan, Sameh Morsj Gad El-Rab Morsi and Ahmed Magdy Ali are heavy on idealism and light on literal plans for their design Stairway to Heaven, a skyscraper design that blends reality and dreams to create a new utopian dimension.

Located within the slums of Cairo, the Egyptians’ entry couples the smiling faces of children and women with a futuristic tower plan that stacks spheres and rectangular living units high into the sky. The opposite shapes are symbolic of the different purposes the structure serves: dream bubbles foster idealism, living cells house real life, and a “main core of hyper cubes” fuses the two, as would a time machine, say the architects, in a way that opens a “fourth dimension” to residents. A new reality is what is truly created when blending dreams of the future with the roots of your past, issues of identity and community considerations. Read the rest of this entry »

The use of louvers define Guosen Securities Corporation’s new headquarters, planned for construction in Shenzhen, China, taking it from a plain office building to an exciting “green” structure – one that resembles a Chinese lantern.

The design, by the MVRDV firm, is also an ideal working environment: the skyscraper is tall (204 meters) but slender, with tight, square floorplans that locate every worker no further than 11 meters from the façade (and natural daylight).

Surrounding each floor is a lip that extends down to create a shadow in the floor below. Louvers connect these lips with the tall glass windows, and vary in shape and size depending on their orientation to the sun. The louvers not only control the sunlight intake, but they can also have solar cells placed on them as well, maximizing their environmental impace. Architects estimate that the building is able to use 33 percent less energy than it would take to typically provide enough power for the structure thanks to the louvers. Read the rest of this entry »

Architect, urban planner and researcher Adrian Lahoud has made the study of the existing environment and scale a main tenant of his career’s work. With his latest design, the Collective Tower, Lahoud has attempted to bring Tripoli, Lebanon out of the post-modern dark ages.

Tripoli is Lebanon’s second-largest city with a population of 500,000. Today it has a mass of faceless and formless concrete towers that house apartments and offices but say little architecturally, especially in relation to the small-scale and historic urban fabric that has filled the ancient city for centuries.

The Collective Tower is actually a bundling of three towers: the three separate structures join in the middle for support, but then splay from each other dramatically. The top portion of the building brings style and ample space, and allows the bottom portion to stay more plain, which has two benefits. The first is the obvious need for stability; the second is that the smaller base has a less impactful footprint on the city. Read the rest of this entry »

Commended recently by the Mipim AR Future Awards was the Grenelle Tower in Paris, France, designed by Atelier Zündel & Cristea. The skyscraper, from a distance, resembles crinkled white paper stacked high, with brown sheets randomly thrown in every few levels.

The architects dub this aesthetic design “spatial texture,” and it rises a total of 200 meters.

The “brown sheets” mentioned above are actually multi-level floors that are interspersed throughout the building and that bring open spaces and foliage to people working and living inside of the structure. Uniform levels surround these multi-dimensional spaces on all sides: a design that maximizes most space but allows for a myriad of uses.

Housed within the building will be garden apartments, offices, a concert hall, a museum, a swimming pool, a library, and commercial space on the ground floor. Renderings of the interior show angular, stark spaces defined by heavy use of white or gray marble and concrete. Read the rest of this entry »

The Lantern Pavilion by firm AWP / Atelier Oslo blends the avant garde with traditional woodworking in a see-through gathering space raised on stilts.

In 2008, the cities of Sandes and Stavanger, Norway were chosen as cultural capitals of Europe, This led to the Norwegian Wood competitions, which were held to promote creative use of timber in architecture – with the hopes the new cultural capitals could showcase the designs.

Sandes, the second-fastest developing city in the country, asked in particular for a square and sculptural design that could serve as a hub for the pedestrian area of Langgata and help revitalize its core. The Lantern Pavillion hopes to do just that – it was completed in 2010 – by providing shade and protection from the rain, and a large, open space that could potentially be the site of gatherings, concerts, and more. Read the rest of this entry »

Ambitious Illinois Institute of Technology B.Arch students Seth Ellsworth and JaYoung Kim were inspired by the good, the bad and the ugly in their design for the TATA Tower in Mumbai. The good: The TATA company manufactures the world’s cheapest cars (they cost $2,500), some of which run on alternative fuels. The bad: Mumbai’s infrastructure is old, and public transportation can’t handle the city’s swelling population. And the ugly: Thanks to that last fact, estimates say 25 percent of the city’s landmass will be used as parking space by the year 2030.

The TATA Tower has several ambitious goals. First, it seeks to house both residences and offices for the TATA employees in Mumbai.  These employee’s cars (TATAs, no doubt) will be housed in a parking garage the full height of the tower – one that the students hope will be a prototype for high density parking in other cities to free up ground space. They estimate that 930 residences can fit in the tower, as well as 4,050 parking spaces. Read the rest of this entry »