6 outlandish designs for future skyscrapers

Any guesses? Image: Egor Orlov.

Every year, eVolo, a design magazine, holds a skyscraper design competition. These aren't skyscrapers that are going to be built - no, these are skyscrapers unhindered by fun-ruining factors such as "budgets", "physics", or "reality".  

This year, the winning designs were as crazy as ever. According to the competition's website, they stood out from the rest of the 480 competition entries for their "creativity, ingenuity, and understanding of dynamic and adaptive vertical communities". Most of the architects focussed on ways that skyscrapers could tackle climate change, overpopulation, or both. Here's a selection of our favourites.

1. "Essence"  - the one that's the outdoors, indoors 

Image: Ewa Odyjas, Agnieszka Morga, Konrad Basan, Jakub Pudo.

This was the competition's overall winner. Looks pretty normal from this angle, right? But take a look inside:

Image: Ewa Odyjas, Agnieszka Morga, Konrad Basan, Jakub Pudo.

The tower is actually a sort of  spiral of natural landscapes, spanning 12 different environments, from "jungle" through to "cave" and "waterfall". The architects call it a "secret garden that combines architecture and nature". Seems legit.

2. The "Shanty-Scraper"

Image: Suraksha Bhatla, Sharan Sundar.

It's kind of ironic that in slum-dominated megacities, homes tend to be built only a few stories high, while in wealthier, emptier cities skyscrapers stretch hundreds of metres tall.

This design, which won second place in the competition, seeks to redress that balance. It's designed to house Indian fisherman in what the architects call a "vertical squatter structure", built using found materials and construction debris. The tower's height could also be used by the fisherman as a vantage point to spot oncoming storms.

3. "Cybertopia"  - the one that doesn't look much like a skyscraper

Image: Egor Orlov.

In third place is this, um, skyscraper, which, if we're honest, we're a little confused by. Why so many set squares on the roof? Why the Hollywood sign? Where is all the coloured smoke coming from?

Let's look at another rendering to see if that clears anything up:

Image: Egor Orlov.

Those guys on the cherrypicker look about as baffled a we are. Here's what the architect (Egor Orlov, of Russia) has to say:

 A complex space structure of the future megapolis combines the physical and digital worlds. Spaces of these digital areas have a large number of physical and mechanical laws alien to real space. An ability to fly over or move from one planet to another one, to pass through the walls during system bugs makes the city more complicated.

Cyberspace full of hallucination and bugs, components of its own habitat has moved into a real megapolis which is being formed and organized simultaneously in the digital and physical space. 


4. "Limestone Skyscrapers"

Image: Jethro Koi Lik Wai, Quah Zheng Wei.

These Malaysian architects based their design around the country's beautiful limestone crags, which are under threat from mining and erosion. They suggest building towers into the limestone's facade once it has been hollowed out through mining - the building would then support what's left of the mountain, keeping it intact.

Image: Jethro Koi Lik Wai, Quah Zheng Wei.

5. "The Tower of Refuge" - the one that's basically Noah's Ark

Image: Qidan Chen.

As these architects point out in their competition entry, we humans are building climate-resistant cities and even trying to inhabit other planets, while animals are vulnerable to all the effects of climate change. So they propose building a "Noah's ark", providing all the conditions necessary to keep samples of all species alive.

6. "Air Monument: Atmosphere Database" - a giant air sample collection tower

Image: Shi Yuqing, Hu Yifei, Zhang Juntong, Sheng Zifeng, He Yanan.

These architects looked at the brief, looked at the unlimited budget and the endless possibilities therein, and decided to focus their project on the problem of data collection in air quality monitoring.

This isn't quite as boring as it sounds: the architects dreamed up a 1km tall tower to head up into the clouds and collect consistent data on air pollution. 

From the competition entry:

[The tower] will survive any disasters and survive far beyond any human civilisation even when the worlds collide and even when humans cease to exist.

The architects also included in their entry this rather optimistic sketch of the collection tower's height, compared to, among others, the Burj Khalifa (second from left):

After all, if we can't dream in an imaginary skyscraper competition, when can we?


This election is our chance to treat housing as a right – but only if we listen to tenants

The Churchill Gardens Estate, Westminster, London. Image: Getty.

“You’re joking, not another one... there’s too much politics going on at the moment..!”

Brenda of Bristol’s televised comments in 2017, when told that another election was to take place, could just as well have been uttered when MPs voted to call a general election for 12 December this year. 

Almost immediately the politicking began. “A chance to transform our country”. “An opportunity to stop Brexit/get Brexit done”. ‘We can end austerity and inequality.” “A new revitalised parliament.” “Another referendum.”

Yet dig behind the language of electioneering and, for the first time that I can recall, there is mention of solving the housing crisis by all the major parties. I can welcome another election, if the result is a determination to build enough homes to meet everyone’s needs and everyone’s pocket.

That will require those who come to power to recognise that our housing system has never been fit for purpose. It has never matched the needs of the nation. It is not an accident that homelessness is increasing; not an accident that families are living in overcrowded accommodation or temporary accommodation, sometimes for years; not an accident that rents are going up and the opportunities to buy property are going down. It is not an accident that social housing stock continues to be sold off. These are the direct result of policy decisions by successive governments.

So with all the major parties stating their good intentions to build more homes, how do we ensure their determination results in enough homes of quality where people want to live, work and play? By insisting that current and prospective tenants are involved in the planning and decision making process from the start.

“Involved” is the key word. When we build new homes and alter the environment we must engage with the local community and prospective tenants. It is their homes and their communities we are impacting – they need to be involved in shaping their lived space. That means involvement before the bull-dozer moves in; involvement at thinking and solution finding stages, and with architects and contractors. It is not enough to ask tenants and community members for their views on plans and proposals which have already been agreed by the board or the development committee of some distant housing provider.

As more homes for social and affordable rent become a reality, we need tenants to be partners at the table deciding on where, how and why they should be built there, from that material, and with those facilities. We need them to have an effective voice in decision making. This means working together with tenants and community members to create good quality homes in inclusive and imaginatively designed environments.

I am a tenant of Phoenix Community Housing, a social housing provider. I am also the current Chair and one of six residents on the board of twelve. Phoenix is resident led with tenants embedded throughout the organisation as active members of committees and onto policy writing and scrutiny.

Tenants are part of the decision making process as we build to meet the needs of the community. Our recently completed award-winning extra care scheme has helped older people downsize and released larger under-occupied properties for families.

By being resident led, we can be community driven. Our venture into building is small scale at the moment, but we are building quality homes that residents want and are appropriate to their needs. Our newest development is being built to Passivhaus standard, meaning they are not only more affordable but they are sustainable for future generations.

There are a few resident led organisations throughout the country. We don’t have all the answers to the housing situation, nor do we get everything right first time. We do know how to listen, learn and act.

The shocking events after the last election, when disaster came to Grenfell Tower, should remind us that tenants have the knowledge and ability to work with housing providers for the benefit of all in the community – if we listen to them and involve them and act on their input.

This election is an opportunity for those of us who see appropriate housing as a right; housing as a lived space in which to thrive and build community; housing as home not commodity – to hold our MPs to account and challenge them to outline their proposals and guarantee good quality housing, not only for the most vulnerable but for people generally, and with tenants fully involved from the start.

Anne McGurk is a tenant and chair of Phoenix Community Housing, London’s only major resident-led housing association.