A park or farm in the last place you’d look

Inventive designs cram bounties of vegetation into unexpected spaces

In dense and growing cities, plant life is at a premium. Urban planners know the benefits of a bit of botany. As San Francisco-based advocacy group Canopy explains, trees suck up carbon dioxide while they pump out oxygen, making our air cleaner. Trees’ leafy cover provide shade, while their roots mitigate flooding. Grassy parks visually break up our concrete streetscape with green space, and they promote community interaction and physical activity. All of this makes city living healthier than it would be otherwise.

But designers have to be pretty creative to pursue these goals in the midst of a development boom. That’s why around the world, architects are finding innovative ways to carve out some elbow room for greenery in the built environment.

green2Pictured above and at right, the Botanic Center in Brussels represents one such solution. The architect, Vincent Callebaut, has proposed dramatically sprucing up a 1977 concrete apartment block with the addition of 274 planter beds to the façade and a striking “Chrysalis” on the roof—a steel-and-glass observation pod filled with a variety of plants and topped with wind turbines and a solar panel array.

From Tapei to New York City, from structures that reach the sky to tunnels that run beneath our feet, here are a few other designs that feature flora in unlikely quarters.


Agora Garden

Another Callebaut creation, this twisting tower in Tapei topped out last November and is slated for completion next September. (Inhabitat has a very cool slideshow of Agora Garden under construction.) As you can see from the above rendering, every one of its 22 stories will be packed with tree- and shrub-laden balconies. And these aren’t simply aesthetic amenities. Callebaut intends for residents to have sufficient outdoor space to grow their own produce. He estimates the plants will absorb 130 tons of carbon dioxide a year. On top of that, the building will incorporate solar energy, rainwater recycling, composting and other measures to further limit its impact on the environment.

Low Line

The Lowline

You may have heard of New York’s High Line, a park running along a disused section of elevated rail tracks. The Lowline takes that idea underground. An abandoned trolley subway tunnel beneath the streets of the Lower East Side will serve as the site for the world’s first underground park. How will the park’s plants flourish? Solar irrigation. A network of mirrors brings sunlight through pipes down into the tunnel, where the sun, normally, wouldn’t shine. The development team built a proof-of-concept Lowline Lab that proved a popular attraction over the past year or so. That bodes well for the full Lowline, projected for completion in 2021.

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Pier 55

British starchitect Thomas Heatherwick designed this 2.4-acre park to be sited atop an artificial island in New York’s Hudson River. Alternately called Diller Island after its developer, Barry Diller, Pier 55 is slated for completion in 2019. A distinctive element of the island is its support system. Heatherwick designed it to lie upon hundreds of concrete columns rising out of the water to varying heights, for a rolling landscape effect, up to 62 feet. While traditional steel piles have already been driven into the bedrock in the center of the site, the mushroom-shaped columns about the perimeter will be hollow precast concrete piers, to be filled with concrete on site.

Although the Army Corps of Engineers signed off on the design, the project recently stalled in federal court. However, it has weathered several court challenges so far, and it has the support of the mayor, the governor, and neighborhood groups. In any case, the design suggests the possibilities opened up by building on water—a long tradition in coastal cities. (Stay tuned to this blog for more on artificial island construction.)

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Mashambas

Skyscrapers are typically found in cities. But the winners of the eVolo Magazine 2017 Skyscraper Competition, Polish architects Pawel Lipiński and Mateusz Frankowski, instead direct our attention to rural, sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 40 percent of people live in absolute poverty. (The United Nations defines absolute poverty as a condition in which people suffer from not only low income but also a lack of access to food, safe drinking water, shelter, and other resources.) To attack this problem, Lipiński and Frankowski imagine a farming and educational center in a temporary, modular high-rise that can be assembled, disassembled, and transported from one site in need to another.

The Polish team’s prize-winning concept, Mashambas (from a Swahili word meaning farmland) would feature a permanent farmer’s market on the ground floor, with elevated “fields” for farming on the floors above. The structure would also contain warehouses—for fertilizer, seeds, drones, and equipment—and classrooms. In the architects’ vision, staff would use those classrooms, as well as the farming modules, to train local subsistence farmers in modern agricultural practices. The farmers would then move on to growing crops in their own fields nearby. Eventually, the community would become self-sufficient, and the Mashambas tower could be dismantled and shipped to the next village, leaving behind the anchoring farmer’s market and one-story warehouses.

To be sure, a vertical farm might work at least as well in a cramped urban environment, but by siting their winning eVolo design in a developing rural region, Lipiński and Frankowski are raising awareness of the struggle farmers there face.

Mashambas interior

This post was written by Suffolk Construction’s Content Writer Patrick L. Kennedy. If you have questions, Patrick can be reached at PKennedy@suffolk.com. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here or follow him on Twitter at @PK_Build_Smart.

The wows, what-ifs, and “What is that?” of high-rise design

There’s still time to enter your jaw-dropping design in eVolo Magazine’s 2017 Skyscraper Competition. But you’d better draw fast if you want to make the early-bird deadline: it’s today, November 15. (The final deadline is January 24, 2017.)

The contest awards architects with the biggest and boldest imaginations, recognizing “outstanding ideas that redefine skyscraper design [using] novel technologies, materials, programs, aesthetics, and spatial organizations,” according to the entry guidelines. Check out some of last year’s winners below. Even if none of these structures ever end up being built, the renderings provoke thought about what a skyscraper could be, and perhaps some elements of these far-out designs will be incorporated into the tall towers of tomorrow.

drone-skyscraper

Photo courtesy of v2com

The Hive: Drone Skyscraper, by Hadeel Ayed Mohammad, Yifeng Zhao and Chengda Zhu. (Second place in 2016) The architects envision this vertical drone hangar as “an infrastructure project that can better meet the emerging demand for incorporating advanced drone technology into daily life in New York City.”

 

sustainable-skyscraper-enclosure

Photo courtesy of v2com

Sustainable Skyscraper Enclosure, by Soomin Kim and Seo-Hyun Oh. (Honorable mention in 2016) The design repurposes an existing skyscraper, encasing it in a climate adjusted zone and installing an “energy purifying system” that captures solar energy and harvests rainwater.

 

air-stalagmite

Photo courtesy of v2com

Air-Stalagmite, by Changsoo Park and Sizhe Chen. (Honorable mention in 2016) In this towering air purifier, “a gigantic vacuum placed at the bottom of the building sucks polluted air to be cleaned by a series of air filters located on the higher levels. The particles are then accumulated and used as building material to further construct the skyscraper.”

 

valley-of-the-giants

Photo courtesy of v2com

The Valley of Giants, by Eric Randall Morris and Galo Canizares. (Honorable mention in 2016) In a barren area of Algeria, the architects propose “a series of towers that would (1) house plant-spores, (2) produce, collect, and treat water, and (3) pollinate the surrounding landscape, catalyzing the production of an oasis in the region.”

 

vertical-shanghai

Photo courtesy of v2com

Vertical Shanghai, by Yuta Sano and Eric Nakajima. (Honorable mention in 2016) It may look like a pile of houses that tumbled out of a toy chest, but the architects designed this structure as a homey, diverse antidote to the waves of plain high-rises wrought by China’s rapid urbanization. This one deserves a second look—see the sectional rendering below. Any contractor care to bid on the project?

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This post was written by Suffolk Construction’s Content Writer Patrick L. Kennedy. If you have questions, Patrick can be reached at PKennedy@suffolk.com. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn here or follow him on Twitter at @PK_Build_Smart.