ODA’s slender-waisted ‘Orbit Tower’ wins the Metals in Construction 2017 Design Challenge

March 27, 2017

Metals in Construction magazine has just announced the winner and finalists in the magazine’s 2017 Design Challenge, “Meeting the Architecture 2030 Challenge: Reimagine Structure.” The competition invited architects, engineers, students and designers to submit their visions for combatting global warming in their design for a high-rise building. The winning design, “Orbit Tower,” was created by architects and engineers from ODA Architecture and Werner Sobek New York. The building–though purely conceptual for the purposes of the competition–would be located in midtown Manhattan at 1114 Sixth Avenue on the north side of Bryant Park in place of the Grace Building.

  The winning submission will receive $15K in prize money for “design that reduces energy consumption in the built environment by minimizing a building’s embodied energy.” According to the winning design statement, “The site allows for uninterrupted views of the Manhattan skyline with the Empire State Building and Bryant Park to the south, and the Hudson River to the west. Its location directly to the North of a large green space provides full South exposure, maximizing opportunities for daylight harvesting, while providing ample opportunity for restorative outdoors experiences.”

The slender-waisted skyscraper addresses the fact that buildings are the major source of greenhouse gases “through a radical reimagining of the building skin and structure…Rising from the street grid, the volume gently twists, sunflower-like, to adjust to a cardinal orientation, thereby increasing the surface area exposed to daylight. The abundant natural light, combined with 10ft ceilings, a raised access floor with unobtrusive service distribution and exceptional views through a clear glazed façade, provides for an outstanding interior environment…Daylight harvesting helps significantly reduce lighting and cooling energy demand. Crowning the building is a permeable mechanical screen of fiberglass stalks which…have the potential to generate energy as they sway in the wind.”

The jury also recognized five runner-up teams for entries:

Emboss Tower” (University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, James Erickson, PhD, MSc); The tower explores the function of structural skin by shaping the surface, embossing to enhance the stiffness of tower.

In-Fill-In” (Students of M.Sc. Building Technology, TU Delft); Addressing the lack of empty space to build in Manhattan, the designers chose to “work on an existing urban fabric to exploit the advantages of building with metals. ”

The Peregrines” (AECOM); Named for both the falcon and Howard Peregrine, the applied mathematician whose contributions were in the field of fluid mechanics, wave action, coastal engineering and included the Peregrine solution, “A therm and hydrothermal models show excellent thermal management for the worst case scenario and no condensation concerns throughout annual weather conditions.”

Structural eXterior Enclosure” (HOK); Simplicity, effectiveness, aesthetics.

XO Skeleton” (EYP Architecture & Engineering, CHA); Drawing from natural formations like coral reefs, the designers have proposed, “a new way of thinking about high rise façade construction,” combining structure and skin “in a single X/O Skeleton.”

The competition was inspired by the President’s Climate Action Plan and the Architecture 2030 Challenge: “Meeting the aggressive goals for energy reduction established by these programs will require innovation in building design on a widespread scale.” Find out more about the designs and the winning teams here.


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  1. S

    Orbit Tower would look like a misplaced nuclear power plant cooling tower or chimney
    – squat, ponderous and just plain ugly.
    The form has an very out-of-place & unpleasant industrial feel to it…