The Boeing 737 Max Tower

By:  | April - 20 - 2020

Honorable Mention
2020 Skyscraper Competition

Victor Hugo Azevedo, Cheryl Lu Xu
United States

At the beginning of the 20th Century, flying was one of the greatest achievements of humanity and the world was mesmerized about the possibilities that were about to open up. In that era of ingenuity, aviation was regarded as a romantic endeavor, a promise to tie people together and make the world smaller.

A century later, humanity is finally able to assess the magnitude of that feat that once was regarded as a miracle. Airplanes were at the centerstage of Great Wars, great shifts in geopolitical power, and gave rise to an ever-growing international elite of frequent flyers. The world of today is a different place, and the undeniable success of commercial aviation meant that flying airplanes has become one of the most substantial contributors to climate change.

A Tale of Two Issues
At the same time, we are in the middle of one of the biggest aviation crises for the aircraft manufacturer Boeing. Thousands of their newly designed 737 Max are unable to fly and are stored in airport facilities across America. What if they never fly again? What happens when the aviation industry slows down? And what to do with the significant number of decommissioned planes in storage facilities in the desert such as Victorville?

Meanwhile, on the ground, the world has a gigantic housing shortage and many marginalized social groups are unable to find a place to live. Not too far from the aircraft storage facilities, the county of Los Angeles has 60,000 people that have no place to live. A chunk of this population happens to be military veterans, who are denied the opportunity to start new lives as civilians due to the high cost of living and inadequate housing supply, as well as general stigma around post-traumatic stress disorder. How to spatially tackle this social problem?

A Building that Flies
Our creative solution is a joint future for the post-retirement lives of both commercial airplanes and veterans. The 737 Max Tower, is an ingenious stacking of repurposed airplane fuselages that will provide new homes and a new chapter of life for a generation of younger, more well-educated retired veterans.

The Max Tower not only provides comfortable and convenient living experiences for the veterans but also offers a variety of centrally located on-site amenities that take care of the veterans’ physical and mental well-being, as well as their social needs. Veterans have easy access to mental and physical health care such as private counseling, group therapy, fitness center, on-site clinic, as well as physical therapy that would cater to the special needs of everyone. Pet companionship, STEM and vocational training, as well as community activities, are also in place to facilitate veterans’ smooth transition back to civilian life.

If airplanes are buildings that fly, our response is to use decommissioned airframes as a ready-made building unit. Airplane fuselages are already structurally sound, waterproof and insulated. Our idea is to leverage the architectural potential of the airplane and give it a second life as a skyscraper. More than just a single iconic tower, our design is intended to be a provocative yet replicable building system that can be applied in many different contexts. And with a global fleet of 26,000 airplanes and an expected growth to 34,000 by the next decade, there will be no lack of building materials by the time these airplanes are retired.

Finally, in the spirit of the early romanticism and promise of flying, we are creating a poetic kind of irony by bringing back to the clouds airplanes that would no longer fly.

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