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Environment / Climate change

Shenzhen could build a complex of giant, connected skyscrapers shaped like a cloud

Of late there’s been a bit of a trend towards skyscrapers you’d barely need to leave. So, here’s another.

The “Cloud Citizens” scheme proposes covering the 1.6m square metre chunk of Shenzhen with a network of towers with mid-air connections. The three central towers, each standing at 680m, would rank as the second, third and fourth highest skyscrapers in the world, behind only Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

The structure would be able to harvest rainwater, produce solar and wind energy, and filter the air. Inside, there’d be living space, offices, and recreational facilities.

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This week the project won the international “Shenzhen Bay Super City Competition” to find the most exciting way of developing a huge swathe of the southern Chinese city’s waterfront. It’s the brainchild of the Urban Future Organisation, working with CR-design and a group of academics.

Alas, however, it seems pretty unlikely that the final skyscraper will look anything much like these designs. The Shenzhen Design Center, which ran the competition, announced the winner with the expectation-setting caveat: “The above design works are the winning schemes of this international competition rather than the final schemes for execution.” The final project will be based on these ideas, but no one’s promised anything more.

While the final design might not quite match the giddy heights that these artists’ impressions promise, Shenzhen does have form for large-scale construction projects. It’s one of China’s biggest and fastest growing cities, with a population of 15 million and (so far) two of the world’s 25 tallest skyscrapers.

Recent projects haven’t been controversy-free, however. In 2013, construction on a skyscraper was paused after allegations that contractors used “cheap sand” in the concrete; such sand contains high levels of sea salt and chlorides which can erode metal and cause buildings to, er, collapse.

And, earlier this month, protesters laid flowers in a park where there are plans to build a shopping mall. Who knows how they’d respond to nearly 2 square kilometres’ worth of skyscraper.
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