The skyscraper, long the phallic symbol of wealth and power, got some major reimaginings in eVolo’s 2015 Skyscraper Competition. Some were extraordinarily beautiful in their futurist designs, while others were elaborately ambitious in their science fictional world-building. Still others were almost pessimistic, or at least satirical, such as Suraksha Bhatla and Sharan Sundar’s Shanty-Scraper, which envisioned a slum as a vertical patchwork slum ascending into the sky.
But the First Place prizewinners, the Poland-based group urban architecture collective BOMP, came up with something altogether more mind-bending and inspirational. BOMP’s Ewa Odyjas, Agnieszka Morga, Konrad Basan and Jakub Pudo see their skyscraper of the future not as a symbol of class and greed, but as a true structural fusion of nature and architecture.
Called ESSENCE, BOMP describe their skyscraper as a “secret garden.” At inception, the collective wanted to merge the two distant general concepts of the skyscraper and landscape. But the greater desire was to plop a mysterious garden into the middle of a major metropolis. A skyscraper that housed eleven different landscapes: a glacier, mountain, grasslands, river, waterfall, cave, desert, steppe, swamp, jungle, and ocean.
ESSENCE, by its nature, would also have to be a skyscraper completely open to the public so that people could enter and awaken their senses.
“Firstly, we thought of an adventure, but not only this,” BOMP’s Jakub Pudo tells The Creators Project. “Imagine all the senses attracted and stimulated by the elements contained in the spaces. The overlapped landscapes combined into variable sequences could play a role of educational routes representing some significant moments in history.”
The name ESSENCE, Pudo says, represents the idea of a journey that is not only spatial but mental and spiritual. To help with this, the collective also tried to “erase the horizon” in their design.
Judging by BOMP’s designs, ESSENCE appears as though it also uses virtual reality projections to enhance the illusion of these eleven different landscapes. But Pudo says there is nothing virtual about ESSENCE. So, how would they plan on creating the various environments?
“We proposed artificial landscapes, but composed from natural elements, including living ecosystems,” Pudo says. “To support the conditions we introduced some levels only for technical facilities. They divide the skyscraper into parts but they do not interfere with the main program.”
These technical facilities would be the spaces between the eleven environments that sustain them. These areas would also function as zones between the landscapes, and architecturally interesting in their own right.
The building is 2,066 feet tall. BOMP proposed three “crucial” height modules in order to define each level according to its conditions and climate. The collective also did away with architecture’s traditional “circulation core” design (movement through skyscrapers via elevators escalators), opting instead for smaller staircases that push towards the building’s facades. They then combined this with their system of unique pedestrian slopes that leads people up and down through the eleven landscapes.
Beyond being influenced by literature’s idea of the secret garden, they were also inspired by Jules Verne’s novel, Around the World in Eighty Days. In fact, they originally thought of creating a skyscraper that would replicate Verne’s adventure novel. Good thing they ditched this idea, because what they settled on for ESSENCE is astonishing on its own.
“The aim was to deliver an alternative perspective on the concept of a skyscraper,” Pudo says. “We tried to combine some distant aspects of built and natural environments in order to tell [people] about something not so obvious, which would hopefully depend on a user's or a beholder's interpretation.”
Click here to visit BOMP's website.