The Hyperion, one of the twelve mythological children of the goddess Gaia, was thought to be the god of watchfulness, wisdom, and light. The name for this shining apparition that illuminated the skies of the ancients in myth, is also the name of the tallest living thing on Earth, a sequoia found in California in 2006. Today, we found a third entity that illuminates the horizon, a project by the architectural bureau PANACOM. Our Russia takes a look at the convergence of concept, light, and art, called the “Tree of Life/Hyperion” project.
Since humans first began building structures, architecture has aspired to reach higher and higher telemetry. Taller and taller skyscrapers eventually competed for their space in our imagination, and in the real city spaces we inhabit. Once we have achieved a certain altitude though, new problems, such as economic or energy efficiency, became paramount, more important even than our endless need to exceed previous heights. A new paradigm is suggested today, one that architectural masterminds like those at Russia’s PANACOM drive toward. The company, which dreamed up the project we are about to show you, was founded fifteen years ago by Arseny Leonovich and Nikita Tokarev, two of Russia’s most brilliant architecture talents.
Of masterful design intersecting art and function, the world has seen its share of brilliance. From the indisputable and famous, such as America's Frank Lloyd Wright, to the less talked about, like the Ottoman Empire’s Mimar Sinan, the world of architecture is one of humanity’s most iconic artistic endeavors. However lasting and magnificent structural design and engineering may have been in the past though, the art’s essence and feel was always barren and cold, save for the inhabitants therein, or, in a few cases, like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, imbued albeit symbolically with living plants. No matter how magnificently conceived, or how gloriously adorned we embellished out structural creations, the concept of living spaces has always been as transient as the gods themselves. That is, except in the mind’s eye of genius, in the waiting urgency of humanity’s need for true green spaces to reside in. Now a skyscraper design competition by eVolo Magazine unveils the Tree of Life for us. The project is actually a symbiosis of architectural progress akin to James Cameron’s brilliant film Avatar.
Here on Earth, or anywhere in the cosmos, the living must eventually coexist with more harmony than we have yet shown. Like the villain humans in Cameron's blockbuster, we have sprawled out across the planet, paying little heed to the eventuality of overcrowding, immune to the inefficiency of our urban planning, insistent on broadening our horizons rather than elevating them. We live as if our skyscraper endeavors were only intended to show off our engineering, as if vertical construction were for show only. This is mirrored in the tinted glass of countless sun reflecting spires, countless geometric shapes pointing at the sky, and not one connected to reality. Nature is almost nowhere to be seen in the vital interaction in-between humans within their creations and edifices. It is fair to say that our current architectural landscape is litter with inhuman objects: a kind of junkyard of past conceptions of life and space. PANACOM suggests a future alternative, a kind of living and breathing ecosystem at a scale never before envisioned, an Avatar-like architectural tree where human beings coexist in “titanic trees” that are themselves constantly changing, and metamorphosing.
While this may sound far fetched, we all know the science fiction of yesterday ended up being today’s reality in so many ways. And from a practical perspective, what could be more logical than vertical living as the Japanese live, integrated with the ultimate green, sustainable design? Author of the project of Arseniy Leonovich told Anna Evstigneeva of Archi.ru:
"Our skyscraper – original Tree of Life, which translates creative energy and vitality, giving the man power over energy resources and nature.”
Delving into the details of this masterful design we see the Tree of Life skyscraper concept as not simply thoughtful or ingenious, but essential as a fundamental progression into future building technologies. The whole idea is to create an energy and life force that interacts from within and from the outside. Sustainability in this concept is more than just use of materials and efficiency; it is the creation of micro-landscapes using materials to fill up a space that makes use of so-called alganic-based tech. One instance, the infusion of brown sea algae inside translucent tubes running along the facades of the skyscraper, absorbs carbon dioxide and emits oxygen. Furthermore, inside these CO2 scrubbing towers, people travel by pedestrian walkways, along creeks and streams, surrounded by shops, offices, and even concert halls. Leonovich’s vision even extends to “growing” these spires in the desert, as well as amid the concrete jungles we now inhabit.
Returning for a moment to the famous Frank Lloyd Wright, America’s greatest architect once said:
“The mother art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilization.”
How fitting it seems that architects from a country of such wide open spaces as Russia could conceive of what must be the “next” phase of civilization? Certainly, if human beings are to survive long on this blue dot in the galaxy, new ideas of existence must be not only conceived of, but condoned and fostered. There must come a day when the tallest living thing on Earth is not a delicate, lone redwood in California, but a living domicile of perfected human interaction with our irreplaceable world. The soul of civilization must reach for the heavens, and be anchored in Earth’s magical terra firma.
Many thanks to PANACOM for the imagery and the concept.