Six of the Wildest Skyscrapers Imaginable

The winners of the annual skyscraper design competition think way beyond the “tall rectangle with windows” model


What has your skyscraper done for you lately? Most are tall metal or concrete rectangles with some square windows. Boring.

But what if your office building was also a droneport? What if a skyscraper filtered polluted city air? What if it brought rain to drought-stricken areas? These are just some of the ideas from the eVolo Skyscraper Competition, a global design contest to recognize “visionary ideas for building high—projects 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.”

Out of nearly 500 entries, eVolo, an architecture and design journal, selected three winners and 21 honorary mentions. The first-prize winner, New York Horizon, from U.S. designers Yitan Sun and Jianshi Wu, is a gonzo plan to create a seven-mile horizontal skyscraper wrapped around Central Park. The park itself would be sunken a la a 1970s conversation pit, the excavated dirt revealing a mountainous landscape where picnickers once sat on rolling lawns. Food for thought, though we won’t hold our breaths until someone tries to build such a thing.

The second- and third-place winners, as well as many of the runners-up, have plans that are no less fascinating (and almost equally far-fetched). Here are some of our favorites:

A Modern Beehive

From U.S. designers Hadeel Ayed Mohammad, Yifeng Zhao and Chengda Zhu comes The Hive, a tower clad in geometric-shaped drone landing docks. The building would be a central control terminal for drones from across the city, with the capability of receiving nine different types of drones, including delivery vehicles and personal drones. The façade would be in constant motion as landing pods flipped open and closed, while a lighting system would help drones navigate in and out. The futuristic idea took the contest’s second-place prize. 

Sci-Fi Icelandic Data Center

Italian designers Valeria Mercuri and Marco Merletti created this Star Wars-looking third prize-winner—a data center to store the massive amounts of electronic information generated globally every day. The cylindrical tower is proposed for Iceland, where it would be close enough for both U.S. and European companies to use, and could take advantage of the Arctic weather for natural cooling. In winter, the warm air released by the server could heat nearby houses. 

A Transformer of a Hospital

Hospitals are usually difficult to navigate. Patients needing transfer must be pushed for long distances by orderlies, while those on crowded wards are sometimes housed in hallways. Chinese designers Chen Linag, Jia Tongyu, Sun Bo, Wang Qun, Zhang Kai and Choi Minhye aim to make the experience more streamlined with a hospital that moves patients along an electronic track to where they need to go. Wards expand and contract based on need; if a ward isn't crowded, it can be folded open to create a therapy garden. 

A Pollution-Killing Spire

A spiraling structure from U.S. designers Changsoo Park and Sizhe Chen, “Air-Stalagmite” is meant to help combat pollution. A vacuum at the bottom of the building sucks in air, which is then purified by a series of filters in the tower’s upper levels. The pollution particles are retained and used as building material, growing the builder higher and higher each year. It’s meant to serve both as a solution for dirty air and a beacon to remind city-dwellers what we’re doing to our environment. 

Rainmaking Tower

As worldwide droughts become worse, cloud seeding—shooting substances such as silver iodide into the air to encourage cloud formation, and thus rain—has become an increasingly popular tool for bringing water to parched areas. These tree-shaped metal towers, from U.S.-based Michael Militello and Amar Shah, are designed to regularly seed low-lying coastal clouds. A net then captures rain to irrigate farms below. Tower workers and area farmers live in units at the tower’s base.