11 Unbuilt Visions for Stalled Urban Architecture Projects

The economy has brought development to a grinding halt in cities around the world, leaving partially completed skyscrapers and other buildings as open wounds in the urban landscape. But not everyone is content to keep them that way, and architects and designers are envisioning some incredible eco-friendly ways to rehab and re-purpose the space, which includes several dormant sites in Boston, a tower in Athens, the Chicago Spire site and empty lots in Seattle.

Chicago Spire Site Turned Vertical Farm

(images via: inhabitat)

That huge, unsightly hole in the ground where the ultra-tall Chicago Spire was supposed to sprout still has plenty of potential for other designs, including this vertical farm/residential complex by a student at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The proposal features a series of towers connected by sky bridges, giving the Spire site a variety of valuable uses. Residents living in the green roofed-structure would get vegetables and herbs grown via hydroponics, literally right next door.

Vertical Algae-Powered Bioreactor, Filene’s, Boston

(images via: boston.com)

In a conspicuous corner of downtown Boston, there’s a huge dirt pit and the gaping carcass of the former Filene’s department store. Design firms Howeler + Yoon Architecture and Squared Design imagine an incredibly futuristic algae-powered bioreactor made of prefabricated ‘pods’ to take its place – a huge change from the former brick building. The vertical biofuel building would even have its own self-powered robotic arms that reconfigure the pods to enhance growing conditions for the algae.

Engineered Biotopes, Piraeus Tower, Athens

(image via: design boom)

Since nature would take over our man-made buildings rather quickly if we weren’t around, why not give abandoned or stalled buildings over to them in a controlled way? Toronto-based architects Anthi Grapsa and Konstantinos Chalaris infuses some much-needed green space into the neighborhood where the Piraeus Tower has stood empty since its completion 30 years ago. For the ‘Piraeus Tower 2010’ competition in Greece, this architectural duo imagines a vertical park with a shimmering facade of plant nurseries offering a respite for both the human and non-human species living in Athens.

Latticework Public Garden, Columbus Center, Boston

(images via: boston.com)

Occupying 7 prime acres in Boston and originally intended as a massive mixed-use development straddling the turnpike, the Columbus Center project has now been abandoned. Architect Chris Reed would like to see it transformed into an energy-producing latticework public garden complete with microturbines and walkways across the highway connecting the Back Bay and South End neighborhoods.

Bike Park, Filene’s, Boston

(image via: boston.com)

A somewhat more realistic proposal for the Filene’s site in Boston by Cynthia Bubb sees it turned into a bike park bordered by a perforated aluminum fence painted with forest scenes. The site itself would become an urban bicycle parking lot and grassy recreation area, and the side of the building would be draped with a projection screen so visitors can watch movies at night.

Holding Patterns: Adapting Stalled Sites in Seattle

(images via: seattle.gov)

In response to ‘Holding Patterns’, a competition that challenged designers to come up with alternative uses for stalled construction sites around Seattle, one proposal questioned why urban spaces should be packed with so many commercial buildings when communities have other needs. The ‘Modular Approach to Building a Sustainable City’ entry, which earned an honorary mention, suggests turning those unfortunate holes in the ground left by stalled construction projects into sunken theater spaces and using the bones of partially completed structures as massive plant hangers.

Urban Oasis: Illuminated Waterfall, Filene’s, Boston

(images via: boston.com)

Curiously, the proposal for Filene’s by Carol R. Johnson Associates doesn’t address the eyesore factor of the abandoned, unfinished building itself. It focuses, instead, on the desirability of an ‘urban oasis’ complete with a waterfall, swimming pool and sandy beach. At night, the unfinished building would be colorfully illuminated as music played.

Medicinal Garden, Longwood, Boston

(image via: boston.com)

Prospective tenants of the planned Longwood biotech lab on Brookline and Longwood avenues in Boston backed out when the economy faltered, bringing work on the project to a halt. So, given the fact that it’s currently just a dirt lot, architect Shauna Gillies-Smith thinks it would be a cinch to turn it into a temporary medicinal garden planted with echinacea, honeysuckle, nasturtium and other valuable plants.

Windscraper Tower, Piraeus Tower Redesign, Athens

(images via: inhabitat)

New York City-based HWKN Architects won the Piraeus Tower 2010 competition with a design that updates the dilapidated building for the 21st century, making it the landmark it was supposed to be. “Windscraper Tower” would generate energy by installing a layer of wind-harvesting artificial ‘leaves’ on the exterior which also act as a canopy and shade screen for the building.

Biodiversity Projection Screen, Harvard Science Complex, Boston

(image via: boston.com)

Harvard University’s financial troubles mean that construction on the state-of-the-art Allston science complex would be paused while the university reconsiders its plans for the future. Before it was annexed by the city of Boston in 1874, the Allston neighborhood was much greener and home to many livestock operations. Designer John Powell wants to remind people of Allston’s former biodiversity with a quarter-mile projection screen on the fence surrounding the vacant property showing images of the area’s past, present and future.

Eco-Friendly Skin Graft for Ugly, Unused Buildings

(images via: gizmag)

If all else fails and an abandoned or stalled building is just too ugly to leave intact, give it a skin graft. That’s what the Laboratory for Visionary Architecture (LAVA) proposes for virtually any outdated building in need of a quick, relatively inexpensive makeover. Their “Tower Skin”, made of a composite mesh textile, generates its own energy, collects rainwater and can be easily removed. LAVA notes that it’s a great option for the post-industrial abandoned buildings across Hong Kong, and could also be used to update ugly buildings that are still functional.


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