China's Infinity-Loop Skyscraper is One of the World's Most Interesting Buildings

Welcome to the future of sustainable architecture.
Brad Bergan
A frontal and aerial view of the 'infinity-loop' skyscraper.1, 2

A Danish architecture studio called BIG has completed designs for a building called the "O-Tower" in China, with a mind-bending infinity-loop shaped design that connects "ground to sky in a continuous loop of collaboration," according to the company website.

The O-Tower will be used by the China-based smartphone manufacturer called OPPO — in Hangzhou — the country's largest.

Infinity-Loop skyscraper design brings natural wetland and urban construction together

"Technology at its best should be a seamless extension of life," said Brian Yang, a partner at BIG in a dezeen report. "The new OPPO R&D headquarters embodies this notion, sitting with ease in the scenic wetlands of Hangzhou while negotiating between the dense urban fabric on one side and the natural landscape on the other."

Yang praised the project as an "architectural manifestation of an OPPO product: effortlessly elegant while elevating the quality of human life in the city." The new tower is a circle-shaped skyscraper built around an open courtyard in the confines of Hangzhou's Future Sci-Tech City — with the goal of becoming an "iconic landmark and gateway" to the larger business district, read the dezeen report.

Key to the design concept of the new OPPO O-Tower is the notion of sustainability — "economically, ecologically, and socially," said Bjarke Ingels, BIG founder. "The compact form folding in on itself provides large flexible floorplates with the daylight access and fresh air of a slender tower."

A public space on the ground floor will connect tourists, passersby, and workers with an open central courtyard. "The central oasis and the surrounding wetland park expands the public realm into the heart of the complex," said Ingels.

Sustainable themes pop up in global future architecture

However, despite the novel, circular exterior of the new skyscraper, "design simplicity" and "melting into the landscape" are two architectural qualities that are not exclusive to OPPO, BIG, or the O-Tower. In December of last year, architects proposed a new tower capable of "eating carbon" in New York City — one that would be the tallest in the world.

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Conceived by a French architectural firm, the "carbon eating" residential tower embodies carbon capture and storage technology to transfer climate-changing carbon in the air and store it — for example — in underground geological regions, thus reducing the totality of CO2 present in the atmosphere. And, last week, another company called NUDES proposed a "solar mountain" — a series of colossal solar panel assemblies capable of generating enough energy to power the entire Burning Man festival.

However, similar sustainable design philosophies aren't exactly a bad thing. "The compact form folding in on itself provides large flexible floorplates with the daylight access and fresh air of a slender tower," said BIG's Ingels, in a WorkTech Academy report. Flexibility, daylight access, and fresh air is a common theme in bio-friendly architectural designs. Besides the exterior shape, one place where BIG's O-Tower breaks with comparable efforts involves temperature management. "The adaptive louv[e]red façade omits incoming solar glare and thermal heat gain, enhancing the passive performance of the building." There's much to admire about the future of urban living and architecture, as projects explore the full potential of sustainable themes.

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