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Can We Please Stop Drawing Trees on Top of Skyscrapers?

Peruri 88 / MVDRV. Rendering © RSI-Studio
Peruri 88 / MVDRV. Rendering © RSI-Studio

Tim De Chant is the senior digital editor at NOVA and editor of NOVA Next. He also writes at Per Square Mile, the blog where this article originally appeared. 

Just a couple of years ago, if you wanted to make something look trendier, you put a bird on it. Birds were everywhere. I’m not sure if Twitter was what started all the flutter, but it got so bad that Portlandia performed a skit named, you guessed it, “Put a Bird on It.” (“What a sad little tote bag. I know! I’ll put a bird on it.” Etc.)

It turns out architects have been doing the same thing, just with trees. Want to make a skyscraper look trendy and sustainable? Put a tree on it. Or better yet, dozens. Many high-concept skyscraper proposals are festooned with trees. On the rooftop, on terraces, in nooks and crannies, on absurdly large balconies. Basically anywhere horizontal and high off the ground. Now, I should be saying architects are drawing dozens, because I have yet to see one of these “green” skyscrapers in real life. (There’s one notable exception—BioMilano, which isn’t quite done yet.) If—and it’s a big if—any of these buildings ever get built, odds are they’ll be stripped of their foliage quicker than a developer can say “return on investment.” It’s just not realistic. I get why architects draw them on their buildings. Really, I do. But can we please stop?

Find out why it's not a good idea to put trees on skyscrapers, after the break...

Coffee Shop / 314 Architecture Studio

  • Architects: 314 Architecture Studio
  • Location: Athens, Greece
  • Architect In Charge: Pavlos Chatziangelidis
  • Associate Architect: Theodoris Tussas
  • Consulting Engineer: Fotini Karagianni
  • Area: 300.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2013
  • Photographs: Panayiotis Vumbakis

© Panayiotis Vumbakis © Panayiotis Vumbakis © Panayiotis Vumbakis © Panayiotis Vumbakis

Beach House / Teeland

  • Architects: Teeland Concrete
  • Location: Little Cove, Noosa, Queensland, Australia
  • Architect In Charge: Teeland Concrete
  • Structural Engineer: AD Structure
  • Landscape: Teeland and Clegg Design
  • Builder: JW Constructions
  • Project Year: 2012
  • Photographs: Nic Granleese, Jon Linkins

© Jon Linkins © Jon Linkins © Nic Granleese © Nic Granleese

Construction of China’s Tallest Building On Hold Due to Concrete Scandal


Scheduled to be the tallest tower in China and the second tallest building in the world by 2015, Kohn Pedersen Fox’s 660-meter-high Ping’an International Finance Center has received a major unexpected set back. Following an industrywide inspection conducted last week, Shenzhen government officials have discovered that a low-quality sea sand has been used by developers to create substandard concrete for KPF’s supertall skyscraper and at least 15 other buildings under construction. 

Les Grands Moulins-Sport Complex / Ligne 7 Architecture

  • Architects: Ligne 7 Architecture
  • Location: 26 Rue de Savonnière, 28230 Épernon, France
  • Architect In Charge: Bernard Ritaly & Dominique Lardeau
  • Engineering: EGIS Centre Ouest
  • Landscape: TN+
  • Client : City of Epernon
  • Area: 2400.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2012
  • Photographs: Stéphane Chalmeau

© Stéphane Chalmeau © Stéphane Chalmeau © Stéphane Chalmeau © Stéphane Chalmeau

Leiden University New Science Campus / JHK Architecten + Inbo

Designed by JHK Architecten + Inbo the construction of the first phase of the new science campus of the University of Leiden officially started last Thursday, February 28th. The Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at Leiden will at completion of the building project present itself in one building, promoting the cooperation between the different institutions housed within. Leiden University will have a modern, open and communicative building in which the various research institutes of the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences will be interconnected better than ever. More images and architects' description after the break.

Randall Children´s Hospital / ZGF Architects

© Nick Merrick / Hendrich Blessing
© Nick Merrick / Hendrich Blessing
  • Architects: ZGF Architects
  • Location: 2801 North Gantenbein Avenue, Portland, OR 97227, USA
  • Project Architect: Halliday Meisburger
  • Architects In Charge: Adam Christie, Justin Brooks, Randy McGee, Scott Tarrant, Nick Micheels Medical Planners: Jennifer Mountain, Solvei Neiger, Sue Ann Barton
  • Area: 334000.0 ft2
  • Project Year: 2012
  • Photographs: Nick Merrick / Hendrich Blessing, Eckert & Eckert, ZGF Architects LLP

© Nick Merrick / Hendrich Blessing © Eckert & Eckert © ZGF Architects LLP © Nick Merrick / Hendrich Blessing

No. 19 / ArchiCentre

  • Architects: ArchiCentre
  • Location: Subang Jaya, Malaysia
  • Engineer: Jurutera Perunding TSSC Lim
  • Contractor: LMK Construction
  • Project Year: 2012
  • Photographs: Courtesy of ArchiCentre

Courtesy of ArchiCentre Courtesy of ArchiCentre Courtesy of ArchiCentre Courtesy of ArchiCentre

Townhouse Oberwall / Apool Architects

  • Architects: Apool Architects
  • Location: Oberwallstrasse 16, 10117 Berlin
  • Architect In Charge: Dominik Franz, Jesper Reinholt
  • Area: 539.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2012
  • Photographs: Courtesy of Apool Architects

Courtesy of Apool Architects Courtesy of Apool Architects Courtesy of Apool Architects Courtesy of Apool Architects

The Indicator: Oblique Strategies for Architects

Peter Schmidt with Brian Eno. What would it be like to sit at that table in that room. Via revelinnewyork.com
Peter Schmidt with Brian Eno. What would it be like to sit at that table in that room. Via revelinnewyork.com

In 1975 Brian Eno and the artist Peter Schmidt came out with a deck of cards designed to help artists and musicians push through creative blocks by offering alternative scenarios, methods, and perspectives. They called the set Oblique Strategies.

Think of them as a way to Dada your brain from the everyday realism in front of you to something more abstract. But this then takes you back to an alternate reality you couldn’t have experienced otherwise. They are traveling without moving. They have also been compared to the ancient Chinese book of divination, the Yi-jing, or Book of Changes. They are to be used in cases of creative emergencies.

Busan Cinema Center / Coop Himmelb(l)au

© Duccio  Malagamba
© Duccio Malagamba
  • Architects: Coop Himmelb(l)au
  • Design Principal / Ceo: Wolf D. Prix
  • Project Partner: Michael Volk
  • Project Architect: Günther Weber
  • Design Architects: Martin Oberascher, Jörg Hugo
  • Project Team: Sergio Gonzalez, Rob Henderson, Guthu Hallstein, Matt Kirkham, Veronica Janovska, Dieter Segerer, Markus Baumann, Jasmin Dieterle, Anja Sorger, Jana Kucerova, Jan Brosch, Ivana Jug
  • Client: Municipality of Busan: Kim, Byung-Heui; Cho, Seung-Ho; Chai, Young-Eeon; Seo, Myoung Seok
  • Area: 0.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2012
  • Photographs: Duccio Malagamba, Courtesy of Coop Himmelb(l)au

© Duccio  Malagamba © Duccio  Malagamba © Duccio  Malagamba © Duccio  Malagamba

The Woolworth Building @ 100 Exhibtion

The Woolworth Building @ 100 Exhibtion, taking place at the Skyscraper Museum in New York City until July 14, 2013, celebrates its centennial year in the process of conversion, with office space remaining below and luxury residences planned for the upper tower. Still radiant on the lower Manhattan skyline, the landmark heralds both the past and future of New York as it became the preeminent silhouette on the New York skyline and took the title of world's tallest office building in 1913 when eighty thousand incandescent bulbs illuminated the New York night. The brilliant spectacle was a career-crowning achievement for the tower's owner, the five-and-dime store king Frank W. Woolworth, who paid for the skyscraper with his personal fortune and took a hands-on role in every decision of its design. For more information on the event, please visit here.

Architects Selected for Competition to Design Nobel Prize's New Home

Blasieholmen at Nybroviken in Stockholm. Image © Jeppe Wikström
Blasieholmen at Nybroviken in Stockholm. Image © Jeppe Wikström

Out of 140 architects considered, 12 architects have been selected by the Nobel Foundation to compete to design their new home, a Nobel Center in Blasieholmen, Stockholm. The conspicuously European selection, chosen for their "design and artistic abilities and experience working in intricate urban environments," includes some very big names - including BIG, David Chipperfield Architects, Herzog & de Meuron, and OMA. The only non-Europeans to compete will be SANAA's Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa. 

See the full list of competitors, and more information on the competition, after the break...

The Beam / MVRDV and de Alzua+


Development corporation ADIM Nord with MVRDV and de Alzua+ have been announced the winners of an urban renewal competition in the French town of Villeneuve d’Ascq. Dubbed ‘The Beam’, the winning proposal will transform a cluster of disused parking lots and a former petrol station into a dense, pedestrianized haven, whose 15,000 square meters of offices, retail space and lodging will hover over the adjacent motorway as a icon of a larger urban regeneration effort for the town center.

More information on The Beam after the break...

Lautner House / New Theme

© Patricia Parinejad
© Patricia Parinejad
  • Architects: New Theme
  • Location: Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Architect In Charge: New Theme
  • Project Year: 2012
  • Photographs: Patricia Parinejad

© Patricia Parinejad © Patricia Parinejad © Patricia Parinejad © Patricia Parinejad

University of Connecticut Social Sciences and Classroom Buildings / Leers Weinzapfel Associates Architects

© Anton Grassl/Esto
© Anton Grassl/Esto
  • Architects: Leers Weinzapfel Associates Architects
  • Location: University of Connecticut, 115 N. Eagleville Road, Storrs, CT 06269, USA
  • Principal In Charge: Jane H. Weinzapfel, FAIA
  • Project Manager: Winifred A. Stopps, Associate Principal, AIA, LEED AP BD + C
  • Project Team: Kevin Bell AIA, Marley Wright RA, Susan Crowe Knight, Laura Duncan, Hannah Jackson RA, Elizabeth Stifel AIA LEED AP BD+C, Jose Vargas, Eun Jun, Tom Chung AIA LEED AP BD+C, Kiwon Kim RA, Jorge Colón AIA, William Russell AIA, Vaughn Miller RA, John Mucciarone, Juliet Chun, Shih-Min Hsu AIA
  • Project Year: 2012
  • Photographs: Anton Grassl/Esto, Charles Mayer

© Anton Grassl/Esto © Anton Grassl/Esto © Anton Grassl/Esto © Anton Grassl/Esto