Urban Shroud

A recent forecast estimates that humankind will construct roughly the same volume of buildings within the next generation as that which currently exists today. A significant portion of this volume will be in the form of tall buildings in urban centers. If realized, not only will this volume require the use of massive amounts of material and energy resources, but the conventional strategy of tear-down and rebuild would result in an equally enormous level of waste.

The Urban Shroud proposal acknowledges the existence of significant amounts of embodied energy within existing buildings, particularly tall office and housing towers designed to last many generations. As the facades of these towers become obsolete from an energy standpoint and require replacement, a new structural envelope may be overlaid onto the buildings. This solar-harvesting ETFE architectural shroud would not only provide superior cladding, but also connect disparate structures while providing the additional volume equivalent of another tower.

Linkages above and below ground would result in a kind of urban loop which could be highlighted by the placement of multiple City Rooms. These rooms would serve as sky boxes, mixing chambers, and winter gardens that support new kinds of social activities not provided within conventional tall structures.

“Urban Shroud” proposal. Houston, Texas, 2009.