“Crystal Island” by Sir Norman Foster


Rendering of Crystal Island - but where are the flying robots?

With this latest announced world’s-biggest-building-ever, “Crystal Island,”  I’d say we’re finally catching up to the imagined utopian future of “the year two thousand.”  No flying robot cars, but then again, I’m sure the place will have great Internet access, something they didn’t predict back in the early days of color television and Isaac Asimov.

Moscow’s rapidly growing skyline will soon feature an eye-popping new addition: Crystal Island, which will be the world’s biggest building when completed. Sir Norman Foster’s mountainous 27 million square feet spiraling “city within a building” will cost $4 billion and it is scheduled to be built within next 5 years. [read more] 

Will it actually get built?  As the above article describes, it sure sounds like it. The above rendering shows a beautiful structure which, in order to reach the scale of a small mountain, must eschew the standard “male monument” form of a highrise tower and adopt a more gender neutral, nature-inspired spiral/floral geometry. The building is crystalline and gives more than just a nod to its predecessors, not just in Foster’s own work, but going back to the 1960s in the utopian fantasies of Buckminister Fuller and even further, to Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace of 1851.

Which brings us to the question of permanence in architecture, or lack thereof.  The Crystal Palace was ultimately destroyed by fire, after less than 100 years. Today, the IRS will let you depreciate new construction on a 39 or even 20-year basis (27.5 for residential rental properties) and in downtown Tokyo, entire highrises can get replaced after even less than that. New buildings get old fast.  A building of this scale won’t stay crystalline for long. We should expect nature to colonize the exterior glazing, building envelope, structural skin and ultimately, interior of the structure, in due time.

Just like a small mountain. 

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About danspira

My blog is at: http://danspira.com. My face in real life appears at a higher resolution, although I do feel pixelated sometimes.

Posted on January 9, 2008, in Architecture. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. that is SO cool.

    i always imagined how cool it would be to live in a self sufficient big ass building… it would be composed of appartments on the outer shell with a small deck looking outwards.. and on the inside part, it would all connect in a huge “main area” where commerce would be on the lower floors…

    seems like this is a step in that direction! much prettier than what i imagined as well!

  2. Personally, I’ve always wanted a full cross-section, interior-to-exterior view apartment suite in a Dyson Sphere. Talk about skybox seats!

  3. c.f. Arcologies . Tho, I actually went to Arcosanti years ago and the place was less high-tech-megastructure and moreso adobe-hippie-chillout-zone.

  4. problem with eco-friendly anything is hippies. i’m still waiting for the modern econo-conservative, social-liberal, eco-friendly, not-scared-to-step-on-toes, but-considerate-enough-not-to-do-it-often generation to be respresented somewhere.

    i’m not holding my breath for the dyson sphere…

  5. i’ve always felt that the pairing of “eco” and “liberal” was a strange one, semantically speaking. there is nothing more “conservative” that trying to preserve or restore natural ecology and placing limits of ecological impact of human activities. but to paraphrase eric cartman, “ideologies tend to live in clusters.”

    meanwhile, the vatican is putting up solar panels, and, given that most people finally agree that communism sucks, i think an eco-liberal bundle of politics is a healthy alternative for those with anti-establishment, collectivist leanings.

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