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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

Solar City Tower in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by RAFAA Architecture and Design

June 8th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: RAFAA Architecture and Design

International Architecture Competition for the Olympic Games 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

„The project under consideration should be located in the bay of the city of Rio de Janeiro on the Cotonduba Island, which is the obligatory approach for aircraft landing and will comprise a vertical structure which will seek to become a symbol for those arriving in Rio, creating an image potent enough to enable Rio to triumph in its bid to host the summer Olympics in 2016. The challenge, therefore, consists of designing a observation tower which will become a symbol welcoming all those who visit Rio de Janeiro, whether they arrive by air or sea.“

Solar City Tower


The aim of this project is to ask how the classic concept of a landmark can be reconsidered. It is less about an expressive, iconic architectural form; rather, it is a return to content and actual, real challenges for the imminent post-oil-era. This project represents a message of a society facing the future; thus, it is the representation of an inner attitude. Our project, standing in the tradition of “a building/city as a machine”, shall provide energy both to the city of Rio de Janeiro and its citizens while using natural resources.

Exterior View

We hope to attain an international Olympic message with a political appeal. After hosting the United Nation’s Earth Summit in 1992, Rio de Janeiro will once again be the starting point for a global green movement and for a sustainable development of urban structures. It will perhaps even become a symbol for the first zero carbon footprint Olympic Games.

Solar City Tower


The project consists of a solar power plant that by day produces energy for the city respectively the Olympic village. Excessive energy will be pumped as seawater into a tower. By night, the water can be released again; with the help of turbines, it generates electricity for the night. The electricity produced can be used for the lighting of the tower or for the city.

Solar City Tower

On special occasions, this “machine building” turns into an impressive wonder of nature: an urban waterfall, a symbol for the forces of nature. At the same time, it will be the representation of a collective awareness of the city towards its great surrounding landscape. Via an urban plaza located 60 meters over sea level you gain access to the building.Through the amphitheatre, you reach the entrance situated on the ground floor.

Model 01


Both entrance area and amphitheatre can serve as a place for social gatherings and events. The public spaces are also accessible from this point on. The cafeteria and the shop are situated beneath the waterfall and offer a breathtaking view. The public elevator takes the visitor to the observation decks and the urban balcony. The administration offices can be reached directly from the foyer. Its inner circulation is organised by an own entrance and the elevator.

Model 02

The semi-public spaces are located in the back area of the building; thus, they can be used separately. A retractable platform for bungee jumping is located on level +90.5. Long distance observation can be done from the observation deck on level +98.0. The urban balcony is situated at the top of the tower 105 meters above sea level. Here the visitor has a 360° view of the landscape and can experience the waterfall while walking over the glass sky walk.

Aerial View

RAFAA is a studio for architecture and design in Zurich, Switzerland. The studio critically analyses the contemporary architectural discourse and combines the insights gained with creative inventions, new tech­nologies and design by research. The collaboration with different artists such as photographers, composers or curators is a further key element. The studio is a creative cell with a permanent team of 2 to 3 architects and designers working together with a pool of freelancers recruited specifically for individual projects. Large projects are realised with external planning partners. For complex tasks, a flexible and independent network allows for the realisation of ideal project structures with a maximum of creativity and flexibility. The studio was founded by Rafael Schmidt in 2007.

Aerial View


Rafael Georg Schmidt

Born: 04.03.1976 in Tichau

Rafael Schmidt studied architecture at the University of Applied Sciences Frankfurt and achieved a master’s degree in architecture at the ETH Zurich, department of Computer Aided Architectural Design (CAAD) under the chair of Prof. Ludger Hovestadt. Since 2001, he has been working with different international architects such as Zaha Hadid Architects and Foster & Partners. In 2007, he founded rafaa, an award win­ning studio for architecture and design based in Zurich. The studio critically analyses the contemporary architectural discourse and combines the insights gained with creative inventions, new technologies and design by research. The collaboration with different artists such as photographers, composers or curators is a further key element. The art installation J `adore aglisia was shown at the 6th Berliner Kunstsalon. Rafael Schmidt was a guest critic at the University of Kassel and the AA School in London.

Interior View

He is currently teaching at the professorship for architecture and urban design under the chair of Prof. Marc Angélil at the ETH Zurich and is editor in chief of the publication Cities of Change, Addis Ababa (2009, Birkhäuser Verlag).

Plan 01

Plan 02

Contact RAFAA Architecture and Design and RAFAA Architecture and Design

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Category: Tower

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