John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The proposed "Strawscraper" would create energy from the gyration of thousands of follicles.
Wind turbines are a fine source of green energy, but some would argue they're also eyesores. People have tried to lessen their horizon-dominating nature by toying with design. Paris, for instance, will soon be getting one shaped like a tree, and in Stockholm, if visionary architects ever get their way, there could be a vertical wind farm reminiscent of a humongous loofah sponge.
Whether or not that's an improvement over the standard turbine depends on your feelings toward immense bathroom accessories gyrating in the breeze. Sweden's Belatchew Arkitekter certainly believes in its strange creation, the "Strawscraper," calling it the "urban wind farm of the future." Then again, this is an architectural firm that's also proposed feeding the populace with cricket nurseries at major intersections, so its view of the future might differ from most.
Belatchew would build the farm like an exoskeleton around the Söder Torn, a '90s-era residential tower that never reached its planned height. The key component would be a hairy skin made from thousands of energy-generating follicles, the firm explains:
Belatchew Arkitekter wants to give Söder Torn its original proportions and at the same time explore new techniques that could create the urban wind farm of the future. By using piezoelectric technology a large number of thin straws can produce electricity merely through small movements generated by the wind. The result is a new kind of wind power plant that opens up possibilities of how buildings can produce energy. With the help of this technique surfaces on both old and new buildings can be transformed into energy producing entities.
The thought of a city's skyline slowly turning into a writhing mass of feelers certainly leaves an impression. But Belatchew argues there are benefits to this alternate, alien world. For one thing, the towers wouldn't kill as many birds and bats. With the follicles' light weight they'd be able to operate in the gentlest of winds. And Stockholm would gain an exquisite piece of public art, what with the structure's bristly appearance, colorful nocturnal lights, and a mesmerizing facade that the architects say "gives the impression of a body that is breathing."
I would add you could also rub against the "Strawscraper" for some excellent exfoliation. Take a gander at the thing, which was recently nominated in the Index: Award's contest "Design to Improve Life":