The skyline in 50 years will be full of buildings that are more than just stacks of offices: These designs fight fires, recycle plastic, and suck pollution out of the air.
Most skyscrapers don’t do much more than house people or offices, but one day, they could also help solve problems like urban pollution and waste collection. For the last nine years, eVolo Magazine has held a competition for the problem-solving skyscrapers of the future. Here are a handful of this year’s ideas, selected from over 600 entries from around the world. Scroll through the images above for more solutions.
While most of the concepts were designed for cities, a few were made for more remote locations. The Rainforest Guardian, from Chinese architects Jie Huang, Jin Wei, Qiaowan Tang, Yiwei Yu, and Zhe Hao, was made to sit on the edge of the Amazon, capturing and storing rainwater in the rainy season to help fight fires in the dry season. On top, the building could also be used as a lab for scientists studying the area.
The floating Seawer skyscraper, from South Korean architect Sung Jin Cho, is designed to travel through oceans filtering plastic waste out of the water. Housing, offices, and gardens are built into the top of the structure, along with a recycling plant that can process the plastic particles. Everything runs on renewable energy generated from the sun, ocean, and the plastic itself.
In China, where only three out of 74 major cities manages to meet minimums standards for air quality, the Project Blue skyscraper could both remove pollution and create new fuel for cars. Designed by Yang Siqi, Zhan Beidi, Zhao Renbo, and Zhang Tian, the building floats through cities using a chemical reaction with carbon monoxide in the air to create fuel, and then delivers it to underground pipes.
Most of these ideas are far from feasible right now, but they’re exactly the kind of crazy provocations that could eventually spur real change.
Check them out below:
Hyper Filter Skyscraper
Long pipe filters on the sides of this design suck in carbon dioxide and other pollution from urban air, and blow out concentrated oxygen. The collected pollution is stored for use in the chemical industry.
Hyper-Speed Vertical Train Hub
In this skyscraper, a busy urban train station is flipped on its side to save space: As trains pull into the city center, they will go up the facade of the building instead of into a long station. Seats inside the trains would pivot, as on a Ferris wheel, so passengers can sit upright and get a view of the city.
CHRISTOPHER CHRISTOPHI, LUCAS MAZARRASA
This skyscraper could both remove pollution and create new fuel for cars. The building floats through cities using a chemical reaction with carbon monoxide in the air to create fuel, and then delivers it to underground pipes.
ANG SIQI, ZHAN BEIDI, ZHAO RENBO, ZHANG TIAN
This building doesn’t just eat smog, it uses it to grow. Vertical scaffolding would collect pollution and turn it into construction materials, slowly building upward as it cleans the air.
YUHAO LIU, RUI WU
This building was designed to sit on the edge of the Amazon, capturing and storing rainwater in the rainy season to help fight fires in the dry season. On top, the building could also be used as a lab for scientists studying the area.
JIE HUANG, JIN WEI, QIAOWAN TANG, YIWEI YU, ZHE HAO
This floating skyscraper is designed to travel through oceans filtering plastic waste out of the water. Housing, offices, and gardens are built into the top of the structure, along with a recycling plant that can process the plastic particles. Everything runs on renewable energy generated from the sun, ocean, and the plastic itself.
Urban Alloy Tower
In cities like New York, there’s very little land left for new construction, but people still need new spaces to live and work. This design proposes building on the unused space over train lines.
MATT BOWLES, CHAD KELLOGG
Bamboo buildings used to be common in Asia, but today the plant is more often used just for scaffolding. In this design, the scaffolding becomes a permanent attachment, adding a layer of warmth to steel and glass buildings. Inside the net of the bamboo, residents can grow vertical gardens.
Car and Shell Skyscraper
Instead of trying to save struggling Detroit suburbs, this design proposes letting them turn back into wilderness, and building a new neighborhood within a single enormous skyscraper. Dozens of single-family homes are stacked into a vertical grid, and new roads cross through the building.
MARK TALBOT, DANIEL MARKIEWICZ
This giant bubble is a research center for the health of the urban environment, measuring data like air pollution and then warning city residents. More controversially, the building also controls the weather–if it’s too humid or dry, for example, the skyscraper will engineer more comfortable air.
YUAN-SUNG HSIAO, YUKO OCHIAI, JIA-WEI LIU, HUNG-LIN HSIEH
Here-After: The Material Processing Machine
When a huge copper mine in Congo stops production in 2020, it will leave a huge hole surrounded by a quickly growing city. This design turns the waste from the mine into building blocks for a new university campus.
TSANG ARON WAI CHUN
These designs for the skyscrapers of the future put tall buildings to use for something more than just housing people. This supertall building uses an electromagnetic vertical accelerator to help launch airplanes, so they can save fuel on takeoff.
HENRY SMITH, ADAM WOODWARD, PAUL ATTKINS