According to the winners of eVolo’s 2016 Skyscraper Competition, the New York City of the future could include a massive drone-docking tower and a torn-up Central Park replaced with lakes and hills atop a submerged, mirrored horizontal apartment/office complex.
The contest, in its 10th year, invites designers to submit their concepts for futuristic towers that are then judged by the principals of major architecture firms. Most of this year’s winning entries are designs for a dystopia, examples of how the next generation of architects might attempt to delay humanity’s self-destruction: the designs accommodate for overpopulation, global warming, and some of the 7 million drones estimated to fly in US skies by 2020.
The winning design, called New York Horizon, proposes tearing up Central Park — the third most visited tourist attraction in the world — to expose the “rugged, bedrock-strewn landscape” beneath. The designers, recent RISD grads Yitan Sun and Jianshi Wu, say they would “relocate the soil from the original park to various neighborhoods, which would be demolished and moved into the new structure,” and then transform the sunken landscape into hills, valleys, and lakes for hiking and swimming. Around the park’s perimeter they would build a horizontal, 100 feet deep “sidescraper,” housing apartments, stores, museums, and libraries in its 1,000-foot high walls.
This is a bad and virtually impossible idea, but listing the reasons why is beside the point. As Kristin Copps points out in CityLab, many of these winning designs, and their wild impracticality, speak less to the actual future of architecture than to the rise of internet “Contestism,” “a trend in architecture that flows from the convergence of open-design competitions, cheap rendering software, and viral media.” Such competitions drive an impulse to come up with fantastical renderings that prioritize shareability over feasibility. That doesn’t mean they’re not cool, imaginative ideas, but perhaps they shouldn’t be taken much more seriously than, say, the animated flying buildings of The Jetsons or the MC Escher–inspired architecture of video games like Monument Valley.