14 Radical Skyscrapers That Are More Than Just Buildings

These days, we think of tall buildings as profitable, if predictable, tools of real estate. But at one time, skyscrapers were as technologically exciting as the Space Race. The eVolo Skyscraper Competition, now in its ninth year, aims to recapture some of that excitement.

The annual competition asks designers to imagine new ways in which tall buildings could benefit societies—no matter how far fetched. The winners of this year's competition, which were announced last night, take the idea to the extreme: One scrapes trash from the great Pacific garbage patch. Another serves as an electromagnetic vertical accelerator to launch planes into the sky, lessening the dependence on jet fuel. Still another harvests waste from abandoned mines for building.

It's a pretty cool—if totally pie-in-the-sky—crop of projects. Check out a few of the highlights below, along with the designers' descriptions.

Car And Shell Skyscraper: Or Marinetti's Monster by Mark Talbot, Daniel Markiewicz

14 Radical Skyscrapers That Are More Than Just Buildings

A massive, block-like housing tower designed for Detroit would put "suburbia in the sky," say its authors, saving space and promoting community:

This project proposes a city in the sky for Detroit, MI. The new city is conceived as a vertical suburban neighborhood equipped with recreational and commercial areas where three main grids (streets, pedestrian pathways, and structure) are intertwined to create a box-shaped wireframe.

Propagate Skyscraper: Carbon Dioxide Structure by YuHao Liu, Rui Wu

14 Radical Skyscrapers That Are More Than Just Buildings

Buildings that capture pollution are so 2012. Instead, this team proposed capturing smog and then compressing it into a useable building material:

We hypothesized a material capable of assimilating carbon dioxide as a means to self-propagate. Employing such a material allows air capture of carbon dioxide and the resultant production of a solid construction material capable of supporting load. Channeling its properties, we propose a skyscraper that grows.

Sand Babel: Solar-Powered 3D Printed Tower by Qiu Song, Kang Pengfei, Bai Ying, Ren Nuoya, Guo Shen

14 Radical Skyscrapers That Are More Than Just Buildings

Using a solar-powered 3D printer, these designers envision a sustainable desert tower printed from sand:

Sand Babel is a group of ecological structures designed as scientific research facilities and tourist attractions for the desert. The structures are divided into two parts. The first part, above ground, consists of several independent structures for a desert community while the second part is partially underground and partially above ground connecting several buildings and creating a multi-functional tube network system.

Climatology Tower by Yuan-Sung Hsiao, Yuko Ochiai, Jia-Wei Liu, Hung-Lin Hsieh

14 Radical Skyscrapers That Are More Than Just Buildings

A thin skin protects this biodome-esque space from the surrounding city:

If you feel ill, you seek medical assistance. If the city is sick, what should we do? The Climatology Tower is a proposed skyscraper designed as a research center that evaluates urban meteorology and corrects the environment through mechanical engineering. The skyscraper analyses microclimates within cities as a result of the use of industrial materials, the accumulation of buildings, and the scarceness of open spaces.

Launchspire by Henry Smith, Adam Woodward, Paul Attkins

14 Radical Skyscrapers That Are More Than Just Buildings

Designed to lessen our dependence on jet fuel, this tower uses an electromagnetic accelerator to launch planes, like a massive stationary slingshot:

A cylindrical matrix of super tall structure centered on an electromagnetic vertical accelerator to eliminate the hydrocarbon dependency of aircraft during takeoff. The radical re-interpretation of the skyscraper format provides hyper density in an organic and adaptive habitat.

An electromagnetic vertical accelerator, utilizing the technological principles developed at CERN's LHC and maglev train propulsion, provides a method for commercial aircraft to be accelerated to cruising speed using renewable electrical energy sources from ground based infrastructure.

Rainforest Guardian Skyscraper by Jie Huang, Jin Wei, Qiaowan Tang, Yiwei Yu, Zhe Hao

14 Radical Skyscrapers That Are More Than Just Buildings

More research station than skyscraper, this tower becomes a part of the rainforest canopy:

The Rainforest Guardian Skyscraper consists of a water tower, a forest fire station, a weather station, and scientific research and education laboratories. It stands still at the Amazon's frontier, preventing fires effectively by capturing rainwater in the rainy season and irrigating the land in the dry season.

The New Tower Of Babel by Petko Stoevski

14 Radical Skyscrapers That Are More Than Just Buildings

The skin of this building acts as a massive energy-producer:

The New Tower of Babel is a steel construction built over the desert surface with multiple levels planned depending on the landscape's topology. The top two panels are made of glass, and the air contained in between is warmed up by the sunlight... The updraft power channels the warm air into the chimney tower, propelling the wind turbines located in the base of the building, thus converting kinetic energy into electrical power.

Project Blue by Yang Siqi, Zhan Beidi, Zhao Renbo, Zhang Tianshuo

14 Radical Skyscrapers That Are More Than Just Buildings

Another building that captures polluted air—in this case, to turn it into green energy:

The purpose of Project Blue is to transform suspended particles into green energy by creating an enormous upside down cooling tower with a multi-tubular cyclic desulfurization system that produces nitrogen and sulfur. When both elements are combined with the atmospheres surplus of carbon monoxide the result is water coal that would later be transformed methane and used as green energy through a low-pressure reaction called low pressure efficient mathanation–a physical-chemical process to generate methane from a mixture of various gases out of biomass fermentation or thermo-chemical gasification.

Liquefactor: The Sinking City by Eric Nakajima

14 Radical Skyscrapers That Are More Than Just Buildings

Rather than fight the soil liquification that occurs due to earthquakes, these designers propose a tower that sinks with the soil:

With bigger and worse natural disasters appearing on the news with no signs of slowing down, we need to rethink how cities should rebuild.... Christchurch, New Zealand is one city that has recently been devastated by an earthquake. With citywide liquefaction destroying infrastructure, it is clear that the typical method of construction is not suited for such soil condition.

The proposal is a system that adapts into the current environmental conditions without the need for tweaking, alteration or correction. For the new city, unstable soil becomes a necessity and not a burden as the structure buries and sinks into the ground by exploiting the phenomenon of liquefaction.

Skyvillage For Los Angeles by Ziwei Song

14 Radical Skyscrapers That Are More Than Just Buildings

LA's freeways aren't going anywhere in the near future—so why not build a better community above them?

Los Angeles freeway system segregates the city's fabric restricting urban activities to single locations. Similarly, skyscrapers exacerbate this condition of segregation instead of encouraging urban integration. The envisioned vertical city would bridge over freeway interruptions and connect the four quadrants around 101 and 110 freeways as a single architectural organism while boosting cultural exchange, urban activities, and social interaction.

Here.After: The Material Processing Machine by Tsang Aron Wai Chun

14 Radical Skyscrapers That Are More Than Just Buildings

This inverted structure sinks down into abandoned mines to reuse the waste products left behind:

The project is designed in the copper Ruashi mine in Lubumbashi, Congo which is predicted to stop production in 2020. The mine would then be abandoned and left as an enormous urban void surrounded by a rapidly expanding city.

The Here-After projects seeks to make use of the left over space, waste soil, and sulfuric acid from the mine drainage and former copper production. A machine will reuse the waste soil to neutralize the sulfuric acid, which in turn will be used to erode the land to be used as raw buildings blocks for the project.

Seawer: The Garbage-Seascraper by Sung Jin Cho

14 Radical Skyscrapers That Are More Than Just Buildings

A floating superstructure that's hungry for trash would act as a recycling station for the ocean:

Seawer proposes to install a huge drainage hole 550 meters in diameter and 300 meters in depth in the middle of the GPGP. The project would engulf all kinds of floating trash filled with seawater. Seawer consists of five layers of baleen filters, which separate particles and fluids. The plastic particles collected from filters are taken to a recycling plant atop of the structure while seawater is filtered and stored in a large sedimentation tank at the bottom to be further cleaned and released into the ocean.

Infill Aquifer by Jason Orbe-Smith

14 Radical Skyscrapers That Are More Than Just Buildings

This tall building isn't designed for humans—rather, it's a vertical sanctuary for nature:

The Infill Aquifer is a floating mass, exposing the ground and soil to natural processes while accommodating the density required by growing cities and world populations. The Infill Aquifer is an optimistic proposal that humanity and nature can coexist and flourish.

14 Radical Skyscrapers That Are More Than Just Buildings

Made In New York: Vertical Urban Industry by Stuart Beattie

Designer Stuart Beattie proposes a solution to industrial sprawl: Vertical factories that use urban space more efficiently:

The project aims to investigate, in a world of free trade and rapid globalization, the possibility of flexible alternatives to inefficient industrial sprawl by considering the prospect of vertical manufacturing towers. Vertiginous manufacturing structures would be proposed in former areas of prominent industrial activity; where struggling businesses are being forced further away from their consumers due to higher rents and potential re-zoning uncertainty–Williamsburg, Long Island City, Newtown Creek and Red Hook amongst others.

Check out the full list here. See any that you think are particularly brilliant (or particularly stupid)? Tell us below.