Decoding Design

Windscraper: Integrated wind harvesting for Greece's Piraeus Tower

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The winning entry for the Piraeus Tower competition is an eco-friendly relative of skyscrapers and earthscrapers.

Designed by HollwichKushner (HWKN), the Windscraper is the winning entry for the Piraeus Tower competition (held in 2010) to complete and modernize the Piraeus Tower in Greece. Called the Sleeping Giant because of its 40 year old construction hiatus, the Piraeus Tower is a 22 story office building.

HWKN's Windscraper proposes finishing the existing structure with a multi functional wind harvesting facade made up of 'leaf' panels coated in Alesta Eco Coating which would create an ethereal glow. The concept integrates wind harvesting into the building's facade instead of just adding turbines.

According to the architects' statement:
"...sealed buildings completely disassociate us from the natural world, leading to greater energy consumption and pollution, a key component of the global environmental crisis. In order to save us from the imminent ecological catastrophe, strategies of energy efficiency and sustainability must move beyond conservation: we need buildings that harvest the environment for energy, synergizing the building’s performance with natural forces."

HWKN's leaf facade provides three main functions:
1. Energy - Equipped with power-rod extensions and wind catchers, the wind-farm façade is connected to a real-time monitoring display based on the work of Seabased Inc. (the company responsible for the Swedish wave energy park that translates the movement of waves into usable electrical energy).
2. Cooling - The metal leaves function like a tree canopy, shading the glass curtainwall that allows natural light into the tower and generating breezes within the envelope.
3. Sound - The artificial tree canopy mimics the sound of rustling leaves, to provide the building's occupants a connection to nature. The designers cite research that found people inside buildings who had a connection to the outside world better tolerate discomfort caused by temperature, which would lower the need for heating and cooling.

What Matthias Hollwich liked most about his studio's design was "the idea of simulated nature that re-connects us to our natural environment."

HWKN are the architects behind Architizer, which is kind of like Facebook for architects, but more useful. The firm promotes and practices an optimistic approach to design. Their inventive projects include BOOM, a progressive community for aging and J2, the tallest high-rise building in New Jersey.

Images: HWKN (HollwichKushner)

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Sun Kim

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Sun Joo Kim is an architect and creative consultant based in Boston. Her projects include design and master planning of museums, public institutions, hospitals, and university buildings across the U.S. She holds a degree from Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure