Sou Fujimoto imagines an ethereal tower of 99 floating islands over Qianhai Bay

Ninety-nine islands form this aerial tower visualised by Sou Fujimoto Architects, floating over Shenzen Bay in China. It is the winner of Qianhai’s New City Center Landmark competition.

by Jincy IypePublished on : Jul 03, 2021

A hauntingly ethereal cluster of 99 islands floats 268 metres above a shimmering water body to form this massive tower, envisioned by Sou Fujimoto Architects. Hovering over the Qianhaiwan district of Shenzhen in China, the structure is proposed both as one tower and a collection of towers at the same time, reveals the design team. “Being one and many simultaneously, it symbolises the future of societies in an age of diversity,” Sou Fujimoto describes.

Conceived as part of the Qianhai’s New City Center Landmark competition, the tower faces Shenzhen's Qianhai bay and celebrates the district’s rapid, large-scale, urban development.  

The proposal by Sou Fujimoto Architects is both, one tower and a collection of 99 towers | Sou Fujimoto Architects imagine a tower made up of 99 individual floating islands | STIRworld
The proposal by Sou Fujimoto Architects comprises both one tower and a collection of 99 towers Image: Courtesy of Sou Fujimoto Architects

“What does a new ‘tower’ mean in the 21st century? How can a tower evolve while continuing to attract attention, as the Eiffel Tower does?” is the inquiry that the Japanese architect based the proposal on.

The imaginary architecture includes the use of steel, concrete, and carbon fibre, shining new light on the future of aerial cities where urban areas would evolve as vertical ones. It has been equipped with a viewing platform which will also function as a three-dimensional exhibition space, with a restaurant and café.

The 99 islands rise towards the flattened top | Sou Fujimoto Architects imagine a tower made up of 99 individual floating islands | STIRworld
The 99 islands rise towards the flattened top Image: Courtesy of Sou Fujimoto Architects

Most of the 99 towers, which seem afloat when viewed from above, will have limited points of contact to the main body whose head widens and flattens out at the top. “The shape resembles a container, or flowers, a group of islands, perhaps a cloud of spray, or even an aerial city in the future,” observes the design team.

Inside the tower | Sou Fujimoto Architects imagine a tower made up of 99 individual floating islands | STIRworld
Inside the tower Image: Courtesy of Sou Fujimoto Architects

The core forms the foundation of the urban monument that seems suspended in the air, where peripherally located tension cables help transfer load, resembling shards of ice, or a sparkling waterfall that empties into the bay below. "The result offers the impression of a strong horizontal plane in the upper part, gradually vanishing as it descends,” says Fujimoto.

  • The widened top will be equipped with a viewing platform that doubles up as a three-dimensional exhibition space | Sou Fujimoto Architects imagine a tower made up of 99 individual floating islands | STIRworld
    The widened top will be equipped with a viewing platform that doubles up as a three-dimensional exhibition space Image: Courtesy of Sou Fujimoto Architects
  • The widened top hosts a restaurant and café| Sou Fujimoto Architects imagine a tower made up of 99 individual floating islands | STIRworld
    It also hosts a restaurant and café Image: Courtesy of Sou Fujimoto Architects

The insides of the futuristic architecture are protected by high value thermal insulated glass, while the porous façade reduces wind load. This intermingles with dense façade pockets that filter light and reduce solar gain. Green compartments are introduced on the topmost level to reduce solar gain, which accompanies a water reservoir that recycles collected rainwater to irrigate its installed greens. A vertical wind turbine will be integrated into the structure to help generate electricity.

  • Axonometric diagram | Sou Fujimoto Architects imagine a tower made up of 99 individual floating islands | STIRworld
    Axonometric diagram Image: Courtesy of Sou Fujimoto Architects
  • Exploded axonometric diagram | Sou Fujimoto Architects imagine a tower made up of 99 individual floating islands | STIRworld
    Exploded axonometric diagram Image: Courtesy of Sou Fujimoto Architects
  • Zoning | Sou Fujimoto Architects imagine a tower made up of 99 individual floating islands | STIRworld
    Zoning Image: Courtesy of Sou Fujimoto Architects

“The judges determined that no First Prize should be awarded, with the top rank going to the Second Prize, which we won,” shares Sou Fujimoto Architects.

  • Plans: Ground Floor, Lower Level, Upper Level 1, Upper Level 2, Upper Level 3| Sou Fujimoto Architects imagine a tower made up of 99 individual floating islands | STIRworld
    Plans: Ground Floor, Lower Level, Upper Level 1, Upper Level 2, Upper Level 3 Image: Courtesy of Sou Fujimoto Architects
  • Diagram of the proposed system | Sou Fujimoto Architects imagine a tower made up of 99 individual floating islands | STIRworld
    Diagram of the proposed system Image: Courtesy of Sou Fujimoto Architects

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