New technologies and building materials make it possible for contemporary designers to play with the traditional boxes that dominate city skylines.
Aqua (left) is the name of the world's tallest building designed by a woman-owned firm. The new Chicago skyscraper with sensuous, undulating balconies avoids the aesthetically monotonous, repetitive, right-angled designs typical of most buildings. The thin balconies bulge outward and are each slightly different than the other. This is a new vision of verticality and makes Aqua one of Chicago’s most innovative skyscrapers.
A similar project in Chongqing, China called "Urban Forest" (right) is being designed by Beijing-based firm called MAD. It uses conventional skyscraper structure, but pushes and pulls the edges of its floorplates, generating a more dynamic, sculptural form. The design envisions layers of lush vegetation, which would thrive in Chongqing's subtropical environment. The design attempts to return more nature and organic forms into our traditionally rectangular cities.
Of course, Frank Gehry's titanium clad buildings and Santiago Calatrava's bird-like designs for buildings and bridges are also part of the contemporary look where the designer is no longer constrained by the rectangular designs that have been the norm for centuries. Students might find it challenging to create designs that follow Frank Lloyd Wright's "destruction of the box" design manifesto.