eVolo Competition Winner Grows a Skyscraper

Kids these days! Once again, we are amazed at the quality of the drawings.

Detail of winning entry
Living Skyscraper for New York City.

Andrii Lesiuk et al

There was a debate on Twitter recently about the merits of drawing by hand vs using a computer—a debate that has been going on for at least 40 years.

Back then, if you wanted an architectural rendering, you would usually hire an illustrator or artist who would charge you many thousands of dollars and deliver a rendering a month later. This is why I am always in awe every year with the eVolo magazine's Skyscraper Competition.

The annual competition is theoretically about the buildings. According to eVolo magazine: "The annual award established in 2006 recognizes visionary ideas that through the novel use of technology, materials, programs, aesthetics, and spatial organizations, challenge the way we understand vertical architecture and its relationship with the natural and built environments."

But for me, it is all about the drawings—the incredible, detailed, magnificent drawings. These are mostly by young architects who pay a $95 fee to compete in a competition with a $5,000 prize, which is less than I would have paid for any one of these drawings back in the day.

The 2021 Skyscraper Competition has three winners and 20 honorable mentions. Below are some especially noteworthy projects.

Living Skyscraper for New York City

Winner evolo competition

Andrii Lesiuk, Mykhaylo Kohut, Sofiia Shkoliar, Kateryna Ivashchuk, Nazarii Duda, Mariia Shkolnyk, Oksana-Daryna Kytsiuk, Andrii Honcharenko

I almost always disagree with the judges about which project got first prize and prefer a runner-up, but this year I found the winner grows on you—figuratively and literally.

The designers share: "We believe that by integrating genetically modified trees during the stage of their growth and development into architecture, we can restore the balance between the digitalized megacities and the Earth’s resources, which are gradually depleted."

This has actually been proposed by Mitchell Joachim of Terreform One and built by Ferdinand Ludwig but this team of eight designers from Ukraine takes it to a new level.

"During development, the branches of nearby trees will be grafted at different levels and form a network structure – a kind of conjugation that will strengthen the structure and continue its growth. The branches of hybrid “trees of the future” will form the structure of a living skyscraper, form even, separate biomorphic structures, and feed on soil, water, and sun resources, forming an ecosystem that is essential for large agglomerations. As it grows, a living skyscraper can connect with nearby buildings and form green overhanging communications over a block."

And then, of course, there are the drawings and the extraordinary detail. See the full entry on eVolo.

Hmong Skyscraper Is a Stack of Traditional Houses

Hmong highrise
Hmong Highrise.

Xiangshu Kong, Xiaoyong Zhang, Mingsong Sun

My favorite entry won the third prize. The Hmong Skyscraper is proposed for China's Hmong people, whose culture is "being gradually swallowed by modern culture." According to the designers, "many Hmong cultural customs have disappeared, and even many Hmong people’s houses have been demolished or will be." It is an attempt to preserve the "memory and lifestyle of their original hometown, and at the same time let them enjoy the convenience of modern urbanization."

The designers share: "We extract the structure of the local stilt style building, extract the wooden skeleton, and then use the crane to move the original wooden house, combine the two to form the basic form of the skyscraper, and then more and more houses are moved to the skyscraper, and the skyscraper gradually lengthens laterally."

AB Walker Celestial Real Estate Company

A. B. Walker

Stacking houses like this is not a new idea: It was proposed by A.B. Walker for New York City in 1909, an offer from the Celestial Real Estate Company, promising "all the comforts of the country with none of the disadvantages." James Wine of SITE did a similar proposal, The Highrise of Homes, in 1981. But this version by Xiangshu Kong, Xiaoyong Zhang, and Mingsong Sun is interesting because of its social mission "to preserve the lifestyle of the Hmong family."

Before and After.

Xiangshu Kong, Xiaoyong Zhang, Mingsong Sun

Here in the detail, you can see how they have tried to integrate the existing way of life into the new towers. They even developed cable cars to move goods between buildings, as the Hmong used to do between mountains. See the full entry on eVolo.

Printscraper Uses 3D Printing


Liu Yifei, Tian Yu, Wang Hangdi, Zhou Beiyu

The Printscraper is not actually a building. It is a giant mobile 3D printer that moves onto a site, dismantles and recycles the existing building, and then prints a new one, with different nozzles pumping out different materials.

The designers write: "For the current loss of architectural identity and urban renewal issues, we conceived a future urban renewal system. Based on the extensive use of 3D printing technology in the future, it will be possible to print sophisticated building bodies and equipment using different high-strength materials. The city of the future will become a rapidly reborn diversified life body, and the temporary 3D buildings that can be quickly rebuilt will replace the permanent buildings as the main body. The Printscraper scattered in different areas designed by us is like a mobile operating table in the city, which accurately retrieves, rebuilds, or repairs buildings."

How it works

Liu Yifei, Tian Yu, Wang Hangdi, Zhou Beiyu

I found this drawing hard to read, but the concept is ingenious. Driven by solar and nuclear power, it surrounds an existing building, processes all the existing material, and reuses it for the new buildings. "The boundary between the death and rebirth of architecture becomes blurred due to the rapid metabolism, or is architecture as it should be, just like the cycle of nature?" See the full entry on eVolo.

Biorefinery Skyscraper: A Carbon Negative Building for Hackney, London

Biorefinery Skyscraper

Daniel Hambly

There are a number of reasons that I was intrigued by this project. It's credited to an individual in what is usually a team sport. It is near a couple of projects by Waugh Thistleton Architects that I visited a few years ago, remarking at the time how truly awful this particular roundabout on top of the tube station was, which Daniel Hamby obliterates with his design.

The design has a particularly green theme, cleaning the air using "using algae, large trees and beautiful green spaces provide new areas for people to interact and enjoy the natural environment, free from the pollution that was previously surrounding them." It is also on top of a major sewer:

Details of biorefinery

Daniel Hambly

The designers share: "This provided an interesting opportunity to create the biorefinery within the tower, which would pump sewage up from the sewer, then extract clean water from the sewage, followed by a fermentation process that converts the released gas into biofuel, which can be used to produce electricity. The remaining solid matter can then be mined for useful materials such as calcium, phosphorus, and aluminum. The biorefinery would include a combined cooling heat and power (CCHP) module, which would use the waste heat from the biorefinery function to heat and cool the building, meaning conventional heating and cooling systems would not be required."

While digging for more information on the designer, I found that the entire project was recycled as well, having previously won the Skyhive 2020 Skyscraper Challenge. But this is the marvel of these competitions, Here is a 23-year-old recent graduate of De Montfort University in Leicester, getting worldwide recognition for his remarkable work.

Time Machine Skyscraper

Time machine Skyscraper
Time Machine Skyscraper.

Seyed Shervin Hashemi

We will close our review with this image of the Time Machine Skyscraper, built on top of the Farragut Housing Complex in Brooklyn. I cannot really describe what it is because the description is written in obscure architetese, but I do love the drawing. It brings me back to my original point about how computers have unleashed an incredible wave of creativity and invention in architectural design and presentation. I rarely disagree with Steve Mouzon, the author of that first tweet, but the "kids these days" are using these wonderful tools in ways that we could only dream of.

See all of the marvelous eVolo entries here.