Posts Tagged ‘rainforest’

Biomorphic Skyscrapers

Monday, February 16th, 2009

According to the U.N., half the world’s population already lives in urban areas, and about 70 percent will be city dwellers by 2050. What kind of structures can accommodate all these people while promoting human and environmental health and creativity? An increasing number of architects are looking to plants to find solutions.

The population of tropical cities in particular is expected to skyrocket. Inspired by the densely layered life forms found in tropical rainforests, among the most biodiverse natural communities on the planet, TROPICOOL@KL envisions mushroom-like skyscrapers punctuating Kuala Lumpur’s skyline. These highrise structures, which look as much like the Coney Island Parachute Jump as they do mushrooms, mimic the five layers found in tropical rainforests: the overstory, the canopy, the understory, the shrub layer, and the forest floor. Solar panels in their circular tops provide energy, just like the photosynthesizing leaves that comprise a rainforest canopy. Scattered throughout the branches of the self-sustaining, off-the-grid skyscrapers are apartments modeled after vernacular Malaysian dwellings. 

Intended for Manhattan’s currently semi-industrial Hudson Yards area, which runs roughly from West 42nd Street south to West 30th Street and from Eighth Avenue west to the Hudson River, Eric Vergne’s unfortunately named Dystopian Farm is a skyscraper that combines spaces for housing, markets, and food production. Vergne says he modeled his design after the cellular structure of ferns, and that the building will use biomorphic systems such as aeroponics to meet the food demands of a growing urban population.

Although vertical farming in cities has inspired the design world, some skeptics have claimed it makes no sense financially because urban real estate is too expensive. Our current economic mess, however, just may create a window of opportunity for such visionary projects. In the words of Stanford economist Paul Romer, “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”