The project was started for an international competition of ideas, but, not meeting the deadline, the architects completed it as a "paper" one: the concept of a new, atypical form of a skyscraper, and showed it at the stand of the Archcatalogue of the Arch of Moscow.
And according to the terms of the competition, held in the spring, it was required to propose a design for a high-rise building, which is planned to be built in one of the most prominent places in Hong Kong, on the coast next to the Exhibition Center. The skyscraper was required not just good, but "archaeological", corresponding to the concept
Arcology, - it was proposed by the architect Paolo Soleri in 1969, then began to implement and did not finish - the concept still exists more in science fiction novels than in architecture, which is recognized in their brief, repeating Wikipedia, and the authors of the concept of the competition. So, according to this semi-fantastic concept (the word is made up of two: "architecture" and "ecology"), the building should serve itself completely, being "passive" and not harming nature, including absolutely everything that is needed for life. The main thing (which actually makes the concept especially fantastic) is that in addition to the traditional housing, offices and public spaces for a modern multifunctional complex, there should be agricultural farms that provide the entire structure with food. According to Soleri's concept, an "archaeological" building does not have to be a skyscraper, but Hong Kong is a high-rise city, and it required a superscyscraper, that is, a building no less than 300 meters high.
In response to this task, the architects TOTEMENT / PAPER (the young architect of the bureau Yegor Legkov made a significant contribution to the project - the directors of the bureau Levon Airapetov and Valeria Preobrazhenskaya emphasize) proposed a skyscraper that is fundamentally different from the "ordinary" skyscrapers of the modern world. They recalled and developed their idea, tested several years ago in the project of an exhibition and business center for Sakhalin - its essence is that the architectural matter is formed according to a certain plastic “code”. In this case, as in Sakhalin, space and plastic are formed by repeated cones of different sizes, some of which are inverted, that is, taper downward. The plan, therefore, consists of circles, the vertical outlines are oblique, and the section of any component part by the vertical plane turns out to be parabolic. Thus, architects obtain a fairly extensive set of atypical forms, basing their plastic code on only one, fairly clearly readable cone unit.
But the more important technique in this project (as in the Sakhalin one) is not the cone itself, but its section. The authors called the main technique "stereotomy", which literally stands for "volume section": urban matter, consisting of conical buildings and the space between them, is cut off by vertical planes at the boundaries of the site, like Swiss cheese or a piece of watermelon cut from a whole. This approach, - the architects specifically emphasize this, - allows for the possibility of endless development in breadth: imagine a city whose quarters consist of conical-shaped houses, rather densely spaced on green lawns, a kind of forest of trunks, cut by streets, and where the red line of the plot runs along the cone array, it is cut off, forming a plane with parabolic contours. The approach is opposite to the classic quarter, where houses are built along the perimeter of the site, and meanwhile, the freedom of section allows you to inscribe such "urban matter", if desired, into any street grid.
The development of the topic vertically is even more important. Here "tectonics" is connected: houses-cones of 17-storey height, plus high upper and lower tiers (their facades are designed in the form of Shukhov's diagonal trusses, the idea is both constructive and expressive).Each group of houses stands on a solid stylobate with three agricultural tiers (there are fish farms, vegetable gardens, cattle yards) - and holds the next one of the same tier. The alternation is repeated four times: the houses-columns, arranged with a dense hypostyle of five pieces per tier, bear the next stylobate with similar cone-shaped buildings. The buildings of the lower block are occupied by offices, two apartments are in the middle, hotels are located in the upper one, at a height of two hundred meters. The city, invented by the architects of the TOTEMENT bureau, is thus able to replicate not only in breadth, but also upward. The authors call their concept a "vertical quarter"; fragments of the "turf" were cut out of the city, including the agricultural base below and the houses that grew on it - everything was stacked or whatnot, woven into a three-dimensional mesh reinforced with common vertical communications (also playing the role of "stiffening ribs").
“The structure of modern skyscrapers, as a rule, is hidden behind a beautiful shell, subordinated to a slick, generalized form,” says Levon Airapetov, “what's inside is completely incomprehensible, and those who look at such a tower and admire its plasticity from the outside are not supposed to know. Our version of the skyscraper is completely different: it is a vertical city, it is open, not hidden, its structure is obvious."
Indeed, the structure is transparent, open to all winds; a new, intermediate scale has been added to the super skyscraper: on the one hand, it does not cease to be a giant, but on the other, the forced gigantism is fragmented, divided into fragments accessible to human perception (after all, twenty floors are less than a hundred).
Of course, one cannot say that the idea of a vertical city is new here: it was expressed a long time ago, like Soleri's "archeology". The idea of connecting the towers with bridges (you have to somehow move between the seventies, for example, floors), cut a large volume with holes or liken a high-rise to a stack of houses climbing up on each other's shoulders is not new (see.
De Rotterdam by Rem Koolhaas or M-City by Vladimir Plotkin).
Meanwhile, in the TOTEMENT project, the principle of the vertical city is brought to a certain purity and clarity. It looks like a fragment of a total city of the future, open for replication, and is a sketch of a system, in essence, similar to the quarter system of a historic city. But this is not a variant of the quarter, but rather its alternative in the new conditions. The classic quarter also, strictly speaking, plays the role of an urban gene code, only not invented, but developed historically, the quarter grid is part of the grammar, the rules according to which the city develops. The TOTEMENT skyscraper proposes other rules, to some extent - hybrid: from the microdistrict here the scale, the rule of internal geometry, from the garden city - houses placed on the green lawn of the park, from the quarter - submission to the boundaries of the site, which act as "cutting planes"; and finally, from the skyscraper - the overall height, from the city, the moderation of the height of each tier. From classical architecture there is a very distant resemblance of round houses with columns.
There is a lot of idealism in the project, so I want to consider it as a study, an abstract statement on the theme of the language of architecture - more than as a real project for a specific place (although for Hong Kong it would be suitable, and, indeed, was designed for a real competition, however, a competition ideas). The project is also not devoid of some eerie gigantism, especially if you think about the prospects for its possible replication. “Young employees of the bureau sharply criticized the project, it came to the point that it was generally immoral to undertake such tasks of designing gigantic structures,” admit Levon Airapetov and Valeria Preobrazhenskaya. “But the project was interesting to us as an experience of working with a form,” they continue.
Meanwhile, if we treat the project as a plastic statement, outside the context of fears of the future overpopulation of the Earth and the present Asian cities (as well as overconsolidated castle), then the vertical city looks, on the contrary, a bold attempt to reconcile the scale of a super-city, a forest of towers, with a person, balancing the ambitious energetics of verticals by soil horizontals of "farm" plates. The tower here is devoid of the ambitions of a monument to itself, and its essence of an anthill is exposed. Well, this is a fantastic, but quite "archaeological" approach, its plasticity correctly captures the change of emphasis in high-rise construction. High-rise buildings have two main meanings: ambition (the joy of reaching the top point when you manage to build above everyone else) and necessity (overpopulation, crowding, an anthill, a forest of giant towers blocking the light). In this case, there is a dialogue of one with the other, which is interesting in itself.