Towers on Wire
eVolo 2014 Skyscraper Competition

Project Team:
El Hadi Jazairy + Rania Ghosn
Yu-Hsiang Lin, Jia Weng

On a cold, grey New York morning, Philippe Petit, a 24-year-old tightrope walker, crossed the 200ft void between the Twin Towers of the newly built World Trade Center. His 1974 high-wire walk made headlines around the world for what became known as the “Artistic Crime of the Century.” When asked why he did the stunt, Petit would say, "When I see three oranges, I juggle; when I see two towers, I walk.”

Towers on Wire moves the ground of the artistic crime from the metropolis to remote territories under the pressure of global resource extraction. The project is sited in Cambodia, a country loosing about one third of its forest resources in the last twenty years to the profit of the logging industry in South-East Asia and the private rubber barons. The increase in global demand for agricultural and industrial land has put pressure on tropical rainforest zones threatening species and economic livelihoods. The degradation of tropical rainforest jeopardizes as well water security by causing severe drought that further diminishes rainfall, humidity, and soil quality leading to even great threats to communities’ livelihoods, health and economic growth. Most importantly, deforestation directly contributes to global climate change as rainforests store much of the world’s carbon dioxide.

The project uses the architectural image of the tower to frame environmental transformations. It shifts the iconicity of the tower on its head by deploying tensile structures at the geographic scale. Towers on Wire float atop a site where reforestation plans have been launched. Positioned in the perimeter of a forest cut, the temporary tensile structures allow scientists and environmentalists to witness the effects of deforestation and monitor the growth of a newly planned forest. The collapsible structures are suspended from a circular ring that rests on the canopy of the forest all while avoiding contact with the ground. Their height is inverted as they dip into the depths of the forest to disappear in the crowns of the trees. The towers harness the humidity of the forest constructing an environment where the newly planted trees can grow again into the forest. Four typologies of towers are juxtaposed to form the community: research, recreation, rest, and recycle. The island-platforms house nodes of dense human inhabitation floating on the leaves of the forest. The green horizon, the canopy of the rainforest, is the collective datum of the project.