Monday, April 05, 2010

Book Review: eVolo #02

eVolo #02: Skyscrapers of the Future edited by Carlo Aiello
eVolo, 2009
Paperback, 200 pages

The second issue of the twice-yearly eVolo follows the same format as the first: one half new projects and other features, one half coverage on eVolo's most recent competition. Each half follows one particular theme. The first tackled housing and now the second takes aim at skyscrapers. Similar to the first issue a number of big names are featured: Morphosis, Herzog & de Meuron, MVRDV, Jean Nouvel, SOM. Alongside their latest high-profile tall building designs are some features I found exemplary: an interview with Skyscraper Museum founder/director/curator (and author of a book I can't recommend highly enough, Form Follows Finance) Carol Willis, an interview with artist Giacomo Costa, and essays on some evolutionary traits in skyscrapers.
So taking into account the projects that may be realized (most projects featured in eVolo's first issue have been put on hold or shelved for good) and the competition entries trying to break new ground, what is the current state of skyscraper design? It is clearly a time of exploration, a period between booms when designs for realization are rare. Engineering expressions (a la Willis Towers' bundled tubes and John Hancock's diagonal bracing) have given way to iconic forms indicative of the general state of global architecture. In the post-CCTV days there is also a questioning of verticality, found in some competition entries and the inclusion of Costa's amorphous "landscrapers" in an issue on tall buildings. Skyscrapers are clearly not a building type, but they are a strong means of expressing human ambition, pride, ego, etc. The devastation of 9/11 could not squash the desire to build higher, and today's economic troubles probably won't either. This issue of eVolo does a good job of metering the current state of the tall building, though the influence of what is found in its pages will take decades to realize and appreciate.