eVolo Skyscraper design competition
eVolo Magazine invited students, architects, engineers, and designers from around the globe to take part in the 2011 Skyscraper Competition.
The annual eVolo Skyscraper Competition provides a forum for discussing, developing, and promoting innovative concepts related to vertical density. It examines the relationship between the skyscraper and the natural world, the skyscraper and the community, and the skyscraper and the city.
The competition places no site, program, or size restrictions. The objective is to provide participants with maximum creative freedom to explore the following questions: What is a skyscraper in the 21st century? What are the historical, contextual, social, urban, and environmental responsibilities of these mega-structures?
MS&R’s entry, Mex/Tex, brings into question the cultural function of geopolitical borders as technology perpetually changes our social interactions. We established a set of site-specific parameters that could be extracted from any border condition and, in turn, parametrically inform everything from building mass, form, and orientation to programmatic relationships and materiality. We selected the U.S.-Mexico border between El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico, to test our process.
A border maintains a rigid, rule-bound physical division, while requiring, perhaps involuntarily, thoughtful clarification of the opposing socio-cultural dialogues. Without the imposed boundary, the dualism of the cultural waltz fades towards a homogenous equilibrium. Acting in some respects as a filter, a national border manages the citizenry, material goods, ideologies, and cultural memes through the maintenance of each county’s landmass.
Our design asks how a multi-tiered building program can physically occupy a border and therefore, both sides of it, while still maintaining its regulations as a boundary.
Digital and physical contemporary social space calls into question the ways in which we organize and think about separation. Mex/Tex provides physicality for social interaction at a dense scale by using site-specific measures to generate form, space, materiality, and programmatic relationships. The Mex/Tex proposal can be applied specifically to any boundary condition. Through four site-specific measures including cultural merit, economic responsibility, environmental health, and social sensitivity, the design responds physically and reacts digitally to the boundary at hand.
Our design proposal has implications for a range of boundaries such as economic division by urban freeway design, topographic divisions restricting daylight, social fabric divisions at gated community edges, communities abutting sensitive environmental lands, or technical limits of the design team and community.
The design rational operates between creative decision making and modeling analysis, based on set parameters. These core parameters are exportedto the chosen site and the design team tests, adds to, and orchestrates the parameters to yield a site-specific solution. The operation of design decision-making responds to the team’s conceptual layering of values ascribed by the four site-specific measures.
Our design proposes two distinct structures that essentially dance as they move along a small segment of the U.S.-Mexico border. This concept creates a spatial gap where the actual line of the border lies. The two structures are programmed in a continual state of awareness of the other side, thereby amplifying the essence of the separation. The immediate adjacency of the other and its ability to communicate in digital media heighten visual access. Visually accessible physical classrooms, which are separated by a mere twenty feet of open space, are woven together with emerging social media, thus allowing students from both countries to be taught in conjunction with one another and with anyone around the world.
As though a synapse between two neurons, the two buildings offer us a chance to examine an emerging global population and its ability to communicate fluidly across all domains, despite our bureaucratic divisions.
The solution represents social space specific to its time and place and responds to relevant site issues that are conceptually within the four site-specific measures.