The Winners of the eVolo Skyscraper Competition Show the Future of Architecture

Will New York’s future skyline include a high-rise for docking and charging drones? Or will areas with significant air pollution erect skyscrapers designed to filter contaminated air? These ideas inspired two of the 489 submissions this year to the 2016 eVolo Skyscraper Competition, now in its tenth year. The annual award recognizes ambitious architectural ideas that harness the potential of technology through the incorporation of different materials and unexpected aesthetics. The goal of the competition is to fundamentally challenge the way we understand architecture and its role in our world.

This year, a jury selected three winners and twenty-one honorable mentions. New York–based Yitan Sun and Jianshi Wu, recent graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design, took top honors with their lofty redesign of Central Park in Manhattan. Titled “New York Horizon,” the plan completely reimagines the 843 acres of public space by excavating more than 1,000 feet of soil to create a space that not only includes boulders and lakes but, according to Wu, “returns the land and the park to its natural state—a rugged, bedrock-strewn landscape.” The two included a highly reflective glass cover on all sides of the park, creating a mirrored illusion that the park has no physical boundaries.

A rendering of "The Hive."

Second place went to “The Hive,” a project that imagines a skyscraper made exclusively for drones, providing urban dwellers with no residential benefits and serving only personal and commercial functions. Rounding out the top honors, the third prize was awarded to a duo from from Italy for their project, “Data Tower.” That proposal envisioned a sustainable skyscraper made of data servers that are meant to store information for companies around the world. Because traditional servers expend a lot of energy to cool down hardware, the two inventively decided to locate their structure in Iceland, thus exploiting the cold temperatures for more eco-friendly server maintenance.

A rendering of “Data Tower,” the third-place winner at the 2016 eVolo Skyscraper Competition.

Although the eVolo competition is meant to tease out the potential of architecture, it also recognizes that many of the projects will not materialize in the near future, if ever. That doesn’t diminish the enthusiasm of participants. “Sure, it is unlikely that any of the entries to the competition will materialize, but that’s not important,” says Sun. “Those abstract, unworkable concepts will spur others forward with projects that can be both built and beautiful at the same time.”

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