Green Giants: 13 Huge Eco-Friendly Urban Design Projects

Big isn’t always bad when it comes to green architecture. While many advocate scaling down for a smaller footprint, gigantic eco-friendly urban design projects can solve multiple problems at once from providing dense urban housing and accessible green spaces to growing fresh produce in the concrete jungle. These 13 projects take sustainable architecture to towering heights and impressively grand scales all while addressing society’s most urgent needs.

Jakarta Water Purification Skyscraper

(image via: design boom)

It looks like a bizarre, almost worm-like length of tubing stuffed with greenery. But unusual as the design may be, it addresses a very real problem in an imaginative and surprisingly effective way: bringing clean water to Jakarta. Water from the heavily polluted Ciliwung River would flow into the building and run through a series of filters in the building’s skin. Inside the building are urban parks, housing, offices and green power generators.

Evf: Experimental Vertical Farm

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Created by student Claudio Palavecino Llanos of The University of Chile, the Evf: Experimental Vertical Farm packs an enormous amount of agricultural production capacity into generally unused urban spaces: the round spaces created by intersecting highways. Llanos’ tutor says of the concept, “EVF Project is a remarkable Final Term Project because it involves two major current issues: the food scarcity in the world and the use of residual urban lands. Both subjects are properly applied to Santiago city reality by means of a powerful ensemble of towers to produce hydroponical vegetables smartly placed around the highway junctions.”

Libeskind New York Sky Garden Tower

(image via: jetson green)

One of the biggest downsides to urban living is the lack of easily accessible green space. While some architects favor packing in as much profitable living space as possible, others acknowledge the need for proximity to nature. Architect Daniel Libeskind proposes an inhabitable skyscraper for One Madison Avenue in Manhattan that would be redolent with sky gardens located on balconies outside the apartments but inside the cutaway glass envelope.

Gemini Residences – Converted Warehouse Silos

(image via: mvrdv)

It’s always a shame when beautiful waterfront property is wasted on ugly industrial warehouses and factories instead of living or recreation space. Design firm MVRDV came up with a solution in Copenhagen that transformed unattractive concrete silos into desirable apartments. The units are located not inside the giant concrete structures, but around them, to maximize the view. The space inside the silos is used for lobbies and other common areas.

Forwarding Dallas: A City Revision

(image via: revision dallas)

Many incredible ideas were submitted to the Re: Vision Dallas competition, which aims to create the nation’s first sustainable city block. But the winning design – chosen for its many open green spaces and effective harnessing of wind power – is perhaps one of the most unconventional-looking. ‘Forwarding Dallas’ fits an entire green community into a single block including apartments, courtyards, wooded paths, meeting space and swimming pools.

Burbs Reduxed – Suburban Neighborhoods Over Highways

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America is a nation of highways, and we’ve come to depend heavily on these arteries between urban, suburban and rural areas. But in seeking additional living space for a growing population, could we build up in a way that breaks from the popular skyscraper concept? This idea would construct elevated communities into the space above our highways, with green space on top. It’s tough to tell where people would park or how they would get to their individual homes, but the concept of building on top of highways makes intriguing use of this space.

Gwanggyo Power Centre – Organic Hill-Shaped Town in Korea

(image via: mvrdv)

Once built, the new town of Gwanggyo in South Korea will look unlike any other city on earth. Consisting of clusters of hill-shaped buildings covered in vegetation, the town’s ‘Power Centre’ – created by design firm MVRDV – packs public, retail, culture, housing, offices and leisure uses into rings on the circular buildings. The hollow cores contain large atriums with shopping centers and museums, while the very outer layer features terraced gardens.

Urban Farm, Urban Epicenter

(image via: vertical farms)

Can you imagine this strange structure perched in the center of New York City’s Meatpacking District? Urban Farm, Urban Epicenter is a vertical farming concept consisting of stacked floors that twist and stretch toward the bottom, almost like part of a spiral staircase. Not only would it bring a local source of fresh food to Manhattanites, it would provide a place to gather, communicate and shop.

Cactus-Inspired Skyscraper

(image via: jetson green)

For all of the fanciful architectural wonders that come out of Dubai, one of the most location-appropriate designs is actually made for the lesser-known State of Qatar just up the Persian Gulf. Rejecting the artificially lush aesthetic, this concept for the Minister of Municipal Affairs & Agriculture building is inspired by vegetation that grows native in the area: the cactus. Smart shades on the green building’s exterior open and close automatically according to the strength of the sun, and the building also features an ancillary botanic dome.

Skyburbs – Suburban Skyscraper Living in City Centers

(images via: tzannes associates)

Many suburban people would give in to the convenient lures of the city if only they could keep their backyards. So, in order to make dense urban living more attractive and discourage further sprawl, perhaps bringing the suburbs into the city in the form of self-contained vertical microcommunities is in order. This concept by Tzannes Associates imagines homes with their own green spaces with lawns and picket fences.

Bumper Crop: Parking Lots Converted to Farms

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We’ve already paved paradise and put up parking lots all over the world, and it would take extremely radical lifestyle, infrastructure and transportation changes to undo it. But those hot, barren concrete spaces could be reclaimed for oxygen-producing vegetation by building overhead farms that would cool the spaces and grow food to boot – as in this concept, Bumper Crop.

Chicago’s LEED Aqua Tower

(images via: jetson green)

In a matter of weeks, Chicago will get a new addition to its skyline that brings some fluidity to an otherwise boxy group of buildings. The AQUA tower is an 82-story skyscraper with deep curvilinear balconies that give the structure the look of a gigantic rock worn smooth by water. Designed by Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects, the LEED-certified AQUA Tower will be one of the biggest green buildings in the world.

T-Tree: Towering Community of Sustainable Residences

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Biomimicry is a popular concept in green architecture, using natural forms and systems as inspiration – and of course, the tree is an ever-popular basis for all kinds of designs. This concept re-imagines suburban housing as prefabricated modular apartments clustered around an elevator shaft ‘trunk’. The basis of each apartment is three to seven 9-foot-square cubes which are arranged into various floor plans.

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