Orbit Tower is a concept design for a 44 story commercial building located in Midtown Manhattan, and winner of the first prize in the Metals in Construction 2017 Design Challenge, hosted by the Steel Institute of New York.
It addresses the targets set for the Architecture 2030 Challenge through a radical reimagining of the building skin and structure. The length of the 720 foot-high hyperboloid volume is divided into four suspended 10-storey structural units, interspersed with open sky gardens. An innovative cable-suspended structural skin replaces the typical aluminum-and-glass curtain wall, significantly reducing embodied energy and carbon emissions.
The elliptical plan outline is the answer to the challenge of optimizing the enclosure to floor area ratio: the ideal circle becomes an ellipse as it adjusts to the specific site configuration. Rising from the street grid, the volume gently twists to adjust to a cardinal orientation, thereby increasing the surface area exposed to daylight. The resultant abundant natural light, combined with 10ft ceilings, a raised access floor with unobtrusive service distribution and column free floor plates, allow exceptional views through a clear glazed façade, and provide for an outstanding interior environment.
The dynamic brise-soleil designed for this project consists of perforated steel sheets with shape-memory hinges, enabling the shades to open and fold automatically according to the prevailing climatic conditions. During the summer, the screens unfold to project from the facade, and alleviate the energy demand required for cooling. Each behavior-optimized shade features a different projection length ranging from 0 to 3 feet, from North to South, governed by the daily sun-path. During winter conditions, the folded shape allows for solar heat gain, thus lowering the heating energy demand. Crowning the building is a permeable mechanical screen of piezoelectric stalks generating energy as they sway in the wind.