YuHao Li and Rui Wu were recently awarded third place in the 2014 eVolo Skyscraper Competition for their proposal of a skyscraper that grows. Using ‘carbon capture’, an emerging practice aimed at capturing and containing greenhouse gases, Propagate Skyscraper uses a simple, vertical grid scaffold to act as a framework for building, or growing, the volumes. “Ingredients for material propagation” are supplied through the scaffold, while its actual pattern of growth is defined by environmental factors (such as prevailing wind and the saturation of carbon dioxide within the immediate atmosphere). Although each resulting structure is distinct in formal expression, the structure maintains a regular spatial organisation, allowing it to be easily occupied and adapted.
According to the designers, “existing carbon capture practices use the method of point capture, capturing carbon gases at the source, requiring a significant initial investment in additional facilities, infrastructure, and maintenance of underground storages.” Moreover, they argue that the “implementation of point capture method may directly and indirectly contribute to a significant sum of greenhouse gases through construction, material production and processing, in addition to the contingencies associated with underground storage.”
Noting that current research on carbon gases suggests alternative methods of capture, such as “air capture through carbon-philic resins and material processes that reform carbon dioxide into solid construction material”, they have hypothesised a material capable of “assimilating carbon dioxide as a means to self-propagation.” Employing such a material allows air capture of carbon dioxide and the resultant production of a solid construction material capable of supporting load.
“Various circulation methods can be employed depending on the need, and retrofitting of circulation enables the occupation of individuals. Naturally, clusters of habitation will emerge with the circulation access at its center, with each structure able to accommodate multiple circulation access and clusters. As occupied spaces increase, varying access can be linked to form lifted streetscapes between a multiplicity of clusters. While programmatic attributions are left undefined and inherently open to occupying individuals, the open structural framework allows tetris-like stacking and up to six directions to extend existing space. The regularity of its physical form guarantees the ease and accessibility of occupation, attracting and inspiring new methods of inhabiting within the skyscraper. Given the three-dimensional freedom of occupying space, new forms of social interaction may also emerge as a result.”
Unlike conventional skyscrapers which rely on steel frame and concrete casting, this skyscraper suggests a more environmentally conscious construction method, an alternative mode of occupation and ownership, and potentially a “distinct organisation of social relationships.”
This competition, established by eVolo Magazine in 2006, aims to recognise innovative proposals for vertical living. After reviewing nearly 600 projects from 43 different countries, the jury has selected three winners and 20 honorable mentions. See the competition’s winning scheme, Vernacular Versatility, second place scheme, Marinetti’s Monster, along with the honourable mentions here.
The jury comprised of:
- Wiel Arets, Principal Wiel Arets Architects, Dean of the Illinois Institute of Technology’s College of Architecture
- John Beckmann, Principal Axis Mundi
- Michael Hensel, Principal AKNW + NAL, professor at Oslo School of Architecture
- Lisa Iwamoto, Principal IwamotoScott Architecture, professor at University of California Berkeley
- Kas Oosterhuis, Principal Oosterhuis-Lénárd, professor at Delft University of Technology
- Derek Pirozzi, Architectural designer Oppenheim Architecture + Design, first place 2013 eVolo Skyscraper Competition
- Tom Price, Principal Tom Price
- Fernando Romero, Principal FR-EE
- Craig Scott, Principal IwamotoScott Architecture, professor at California College of the Arts
- Carol Willis, Director Skyscraper Museum, professor at Columbia University
- Dan Wood, Principal WORK Architecture Company, professor at Yale University
Architects: YuHao Liu & Rui Wu
Photographs: YuHao Liu & Rui Wu