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Titled “New York Horizon”, a horizontal “sidescraper” envisioned by two young New York-based designers, Jianshi Wu and Yitan Sun, was selected the 1st Prize winner of 2016 eVolo Skyscraper Competition among 489 projects received from around the world. The annual award recognizes outstanding ideas that “redefine skyscraper design through the implementation of novel technologies, materials, programs, aesthetics, and spatial organizations”.
The Winning Proposal
Rather than constructing a traditional skyscraper by building upwards, “New York Horizon” envisions a new paradigm by digging downward to Central Park’s bedrock, which will reveal the park’s rugged natural terrain while also creating a continuous wall of skyscrapers around its periphery to house habitable spaces with unobstructed views of the new underground park. The project was conceived to contrast against the city’s densely constructed buildings and towering skyscrapers, as well as, to provide New Yorkers with a natural environment that they could enjoy and use as an escape from their busy urban lives.
Consequently, the soil removed from the park would be used to add a more dynamic landscape (minimountains, hills etc.) to underdeveloped plots all over Manhattan. This would create a new urban condition, where the newly constructed landscape becomes a cohesive part of the city.
This reimagined parkland would allow for hiking, climbing, swimming and other outdoor activities. And finally, the reflective glass façade canvassing the wall of skyscrapers will reflect the park’s natural terrain and create the illusion of a never-ending natural world within the heart of Manhattan’s concrete jungle, while also offering New Yorkers’ a perspective of the landscape that is not limited by the park’s physical boundaries.
Design by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux over 150 years ago, Central Park was so beautifully designed that the people of today overlook the fact that it is actually an artificial piece of land. The project’s inspiration builds upon Olmsted’s theory of providing equally accessible common green space to all citizens and giving people “greater enjoyment of scenery than they could otherwise have consistently with convenience within a given space”.
His vision, however, is slowly disappearing as skyscrapers continue to rise higher than ever around the park, blocking each other. And unfortunately, only the affluent few that can live and/or work on top of these towering skyscrapers are given the benefit and enjoyment of the park’s total stunning view on a daily basis.
Therefore, the two designers conceptualized the idea of returning the park to its natural state, when Manhattan once looked like a rugged, bedrockstrewn landscape that had to be heavily sculpted in order to show any semblance to a park. “We want to bring back the ‘real nature’, says Wu and Sun, “and also uncover opportunities for future skyscraper designs.”
The 1000ft (300m) tall, 100ft (30m) wide wall of skyscrapers/mega-structure would create 7 square miles (18 square kms) (80 times greater than the Empire State Building) of habitable indoor space, while introducing a more natural diversity and verticality to the old1.3 square mile (3.6 square km)flat Central Park.
The seven-mile-perimeter wraparound mega-structure would contain apartments, retails, museums, libraries, etc. within the 100 feet (30m) deep inhabitable walls, with an unobstructed view and connection to the park.
Following Manhattan’s city grid, there are main circulation cores (elevators) that would align with very single street from 59th to 110th street to transfer people down to the park, as well as to other various floors. Secondary circulation (ramps, stairs) would connect separate spaces in various scales between the cores.
A New Kind of Skyscraper
According to Sun and Wu, The goal of their bold concept is to reverse the traditional relationship between landscape and architecture. Instead of building distant, flat landscapes to surround and complement individual architectural buildings, the natural landscape is now the centerpiece. In this case, the dynamic landscape is surrounded by characterless architecture that does nothing but reflect nature.
Though it is unlikely that any of the entries to the eVolo competition was submitted with the goal that they might one day be built, it does not diminish the enthusiasm of participants. “we believe it is the innovative thinking behind these designs that is important,” Says Wu and Sun, “the most abstract concepts can contain the seed of a visionary idea that might otherwise never be discovered.”