Winner of Evolo Skyscraper Design Competition Nails It Without Nails

©. Yong Ju Lee

The eVolo skyscraper competition was "established in 2006 to recognize outstanding ideas for vertical living through the novel use of technology, materials, programs, aesthetics, and spatial organizations." Every year since 2006 it has been a ritual of mine to diss the winners and second-guess the judges. Not this year!

Yong Ju Lee's "Vernacular Versatility" is just amazing. He takes the carpentry techniques that were used to build traditional Korean houses, a system that builds out of wood without nails, and goes up, way up.

hanok detail

© Yong Ju Lee/ comparing old and new Hanok structures

Hanok is the named used to describe a traditional Korean house. A Hanok is defined by its exposed wooden structural system and tiled roof. The curved edge of the roof can be adjusted to control the amount of sunlight entering the house while the core structural element is a wooden connection named Gagu. The Gagu is located below the main roof system where the column meets the beam and girder and it is fastened without the need of any additional parts such as nails – this connection is one of the main aesthetic characteristics of traditional Korean architecture.

© Yong Ju Lee

Historically this structural system has been developed exclusively in plan, applied only to one-story residences. However, as various modeling software have been recently developed, there are more opportunities to apply this traditional system into complex high-rise structures that meet contemporary purposes and programs. Vernacular Versatility can open a new chapter of possibilities to bring this old construction and design tradition to the present day with efficiency and beauty.

© Yong Ju Lee/ Section

The detail in this presentation is extraordinary, it's got gorgeous renderings and sections;


© Yong Ju Lee/ detail of section

Here is a zoom in on that section, showing the level of detail that's going on here.

3D model

© Yong Ju Lee/ Printout

He's even done a 3D model printout.


© Yong Ju Lee

I will admit a bias toward wood construction, and have often noted that we have many lessons to learn from old buildings. This project combines it all, with incredible draughtsmanship and model building to boot. Yong Ju Lee and the Evolo jury (which is pretty impressive too!) nailed it this year. Wow.