Thursday, March 15, 2012

Visions of the Future

Since 2006, the architecture magazine eVolo has empanelled an international jury to judge a prize for designs that express new ideas for skyscrapers--essentially, designs for the skyscrapers of the future.  Futuristic design has a long history, with possibly the most famous being the structures designed and even built for the 1939 New York Worlds Fair.  These were soaring, optimistic visions for an amazing future.

The designs selected as winners and runners-up in this 2012 competition are strikingly different.  This is the first prize winner, designed by three Chinese architects.  With spindly legs, resembling both the original H.G. Wells and especially the Steven Spielberg vision of War of the Worlds Martian machines, the structures are appropriately futuristic--but the purpose of these "Himalayan Water Towers" is to store water and regulate its dispersal, in response to the faster melting due to the Climate Crisis of the ice sheets that provide 40% of the world's fresh water.

The second place design, also from China, provides residences for mountainous areas scoured by industrialization and mineral extraction.  Third place went to a Taiwan design for a New York landfill tower, three times the height of the Empire State Building, which will process garbage and turn it into energy. 

Among the 22 honorable mentions:  a design from the Ukraine for Japan, of fortress skyscrapers protected against Climate Crisis and other disasters, and a "Migrant Skyscraper" design from Poland, which is a total living environment literally on giant wheels, so the population housed within can be quickly moved as disaster encroaches.

In fact, nearly every design is responding to the Climate Crisis or other ecological catastrophe (like the underwater structure to be sunk into the sea in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, to process the accumulating plastics.) One is actually called Noah's Ark.  This is the future these architects are designing for.

The countries represented in the honorable mentions are South Korea, Mexico, Switzerland, Romania, Spain, Serbia, France, the UK and Iran.  The U.S. is represented in four projects: two by architects with Chinese names, and two in partnership with China, Japan, Greece and the UK. 

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