Woo Min Lee, Kang Min Yoo, Justin Baek, Tamin Song New Zealand
While the use of glass in skyscrapers has proliferated, contemporary skyscrapers are effectively closed off from the environment. Since its inception, the use of closed and artificially controlled interior environments have caused large strains on the planet’s resources; have made these buildings homogenous experientially; and have also caused sicknesses related to this over-reliance on air-conditioning. Modern humans now live, work, play and learn in towers with the outside as if it were wallpaper: despite it snowing outside, the occupants feel no cold; nor feel any heat during a hot summer’s day. While comfort is of importance, this comfort-craziness has driven more and more advanced air-conditioning technology creating buildings that no longer open up to the nature’s seasonal changes and are the same all year round.
The Urban Tent seeks to change this static typology by reutilising the traditional tent concept: a breathable skin that adapts for multiple environmental settings without resorting to air-conditioning. Using innovations in smart fabric technology, such as the UHMWP fabric (ultra-high-molecular-weight-polyethylene), the Urban Tent Skyscraper can do more than traditional tent fabrics with its dynamic properties of transparencies, porosities, insulations, tensions, strengths and plasticity. The design for the Urban Tent Skyscraper is conceived as being more like the human skin with an outer porous fabric membrane around the outside of the building, like the epidermis, and different additional inner layers of fabric-walls around all the interior rooms and in particular spaces creating multiple temperatures and different layers of interior conditions within the whole building. Consequently, occupants can then choose to be in zones of different comfort and temperatures which also creates an opportunity for co-existence of different trees and plants. People can be enjoying the winter without feeling too cold in the outer zones, or feeling warm by being inside one of the warmer inner layer fabric rooms. The outside and inside fabric work together in a way that it creates different environmental conditions and different micro-climates on the inside of the building so that the harsh outside natural environment is filtered into the building in different amounts in different zones of the interior.
The Urban Tent is envisioned to work well in a site like in Seoul where there are four extreme seasons: hot summers, freezing-cold winters, chilly autumns and warm springs. In order to adapt to these radical changes, the tower is capable of opening and closing, like traditional tent mechanisms, to change not only the macro-climate of the tower but also the micro-climates inside. In summer, the tower’s outer and inner fabric walls can open up so that natural ventilation can occur throughout; spring and autumn can have varying levels and interior rooms opened and closed depending on each floor levels’ requirements; and in winter the tower’s fabric is fully closed with additional ice-capturing to increase insulation capacity.
Because of these varying micro-climates inside the tower, rather than completely cutting people off from nature, the tower begins to bridge people closer to nature. As technology advances, architecture should follow suit to enhance the sense of experience and integration to nature so that the daily-lives can also be equally enriched; redefining the fundamental concept of shelter in architecture to that of not only protection from but integration to nature. The architecture is a new spatial experience of ephemeral beauty like that of nature: it changes with sunlight, captures shadows and warps with the wind. We imagine that this kind of design will allow for many more different kinds of activity and experiences to occur in daily life of the building as people are moved closer to nature, even in an urban environment.