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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.

Multiple Natures – Fibrous Tower in Taichung, Taiwan by soma (designed with Rhino and Grasshopper)

March 3rd, 2012 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: soma

A new tower typology
The Taiwan Tower will become an innovative landmark people can identify with in present as well as in future times. Therefore the tower should not state a fixed message, but trigger people to invent their own interpretations of the tower’s meaning. To evoke multiply and diverse associations the tower has to be illusive and complex. It will become a dynamic and contemporary landmark that celebrates diversity.


  • Architect: soma
  • Project Name: Multiple Natures – Fibrous Tower
  • Location: Taichung, Taiwan
  • Client: Taichung City Government
  • Use: Observation Tower, Taichung City Museum, park
  • Competition: Taiwan Tower Competition
  • Software used: Rhino, Grasshopper, Processing and Karamba.


  • Consultants:
    • Local Partner: RLA Architects, Taipei
    • Structural Engineer: BollingerGrohmannSchneider ZT GmbH, Vienna
    • Climate: Transsolar, Stuttgart
    • Lighting: agLicht, Bonn/Germany
    • Landscape: Realgrün, Munich
    • Facades: Emmer Pfenninger, Münchenstein/Switzerland
    • Kinetic Elements: KnippersHelbig, Stuttgart


The fibrous tower emerges out of the interplay of many individual members, forming a synergistic whole and thereby establishing a new vertical typology. The structure is dissolved at the bottom allowing the park landscape to flow freely between the tower legs. They create a non-hierarchical open field that is interpreted as a cell pattern. The cells produce the base pattern for the building volumes, squares and green areas as well as networks of paths. Each tower leg fulfills a particular function: the 4 inner legs contain all circulation like panoramic elevators, fire elevator or emergency stairs.

The outer legs create spaces for intermediate platforms and observatories by expanding. The complex bundle tower produces diverse images and appearances from various distances to invite visitors to explore the depth of its structure. From far distances the individual members merge into a distinctive figure, at closer view the structure is recognized as a bundle of tubes that again split up in sub-tubes. On the intermediate platforms the detailed structure and the kinetic devices become a spectacular part of the exhibition.


Learning from Nature – Evolution of the tower geometry
The potential of natural processes is used to create an evocative and multilayered tower appearance. Algorithms underlying natural processes are applied in digital models to organize multiple members into one per-formative fibrous structure. The design is evolved in a bottom up approach, using swarm intelligence systems. The geometry of the tower emerges as one possible scenario from a solution space created by interactions among and between individual agents.

The results were overlaid with functional requirements and further developed with the help of evolutionary structural software. Taiwan Tower will be a showcase for future architecture that learns from nature and deploys its underlying principles. At the Eco-laboratories visitors can observe how piezoelectric halms produce energy by movement and transform them into light at night, resembling floating swarms of particles.

The bio-mimetic lamellas adapt to weather conditions by opening and closing and protect the visitors from sun and wind. They are up to 20 meter high, but move in an almost weightless way, triggered by minimal energy and inspired by natural opening mechanisms of flowers. The tower itself becomes a fully integrated part of the exhibition; it displays how the responsible use of natural resources can lead to architectural innovation and investigation that speaks to peoples’ imagination and emotions.


Tower of Innovation – Zero Carbon complex
Taiwan Tower will become a sustainable icon displaying cutting edge technologies and innovations. The “zero carbon” tower will be the world’s largest vertical absorber that functions as a self-sufficient system. Combined with the museum it will be a visionary ecological building ensemble. Furthermore the tower turns invisible energy processes into a spatial experience and becomes an architectural statement: the need of reduction of energy consumption leads to architectural and spatial innovation. 100% of energy supply is covered by renewable energy generation on site.


In order to achieve this goal energy use within the project must be highly efficient in all regards, including artificial lighting and media use in the museum and exhibition spaces as well as all electrical equipment, air conditioning and cooling installations. Photovoltaic (PV) cells are integrated into the roof areas of the museum. High efficient crystalline modules are applied for the opaque roof areas whereas semi-transparent cell or module types can be used in areas where daylight is used to naturally light the spaces below. Here the PV modules serve both for electricity production and as a shading device to control daylight and solar heat gain.

Most importantly, the skin of the tower will be turned into a vertical solar absorber by extensive coverage of the exterior by flexible PV modules that follow the organic shape of the exterior surfaces. Due to the high fraction of diffuse solar radiation (about 60% of total radiation) typical for Taiwan weather conditions, availability of solar energy is not limited to horizontal or southern directions. A considerable amount of photovoltaic energy can also be harvested from all other orientations. That way, a total area of around 25.000 m² of exterior surface of the tower is available for electricity production.


Urban Context
The tower is situated in the eastern part of the site and widely visible throughout the park. The museum is situated next to the tower for 2 major reasons: The tower is the main landmark for the new park, which freely flows through the tower area and is not blocked by buildings. While the tower becomes part of the green spaces, the museum complex connects the site to the urban fabric. It consists of smaller units (exhibition bodies) and adapts to the scale of the neighboring buildings thereby creating a new urban entrance plaza for the tower and the park.

The park is closely related to the theme of the Taichung City Museum and the Zero Carbon Tower and uses natural and low-tech strategies to produce comfortable climate zones. Shading trees, cooling ponds and pavilions with water curtains produce micro climates for strolling visitors. The park’s cell structure connects the tower and the museum into one complex and creates spatial differentiation within the park.


Taichung City Museum
On ground floor the building is divided in two distinct parts – the museum and the tower lobby – to create a wide and shaded passage towards the tower and the park. The fluid lobby space is defined by the three-dimensionally transformed ceiling geometry, which is informed by the upper exhibition spaces. The ceiling creates areas and regions for the different functions within the lobby while keeping the ground floor open and continuous.

The exhibition level provides 3 zones for displays: black spaces for immersive multimedia installations, intermediate zones for introductive exhibitions and an open daylight area with integrated galleries that connects all exhibition halls. This open zone offers resting and lounge areas as well as views to the tower and the surrounding park. The upper level connects the museum and the tower lobby. The proposed circulation increases flexibility: Visitors can decide to either directly access the tower through the tower lobby or take the extended museum tour.


Tower Structure
The tower’s structural topology is not defined through a traditional structural design process. Instead a bottom-up method is established, that leads to a structure with emergent load bearing capacities. By using probabilistic optimization methods complexity in the topology of structures is achievable: they are directly derived from static capacities, but do not explicitly show the underlying load bearing principles. The inherent load bearing quality is not readable at first glance and emerges as the result of the complex interaction between its single members.

The tower’s final structure was generated by automatically creating, calculating and comparing more than 2.500.000 alternative solutions. To achieve a stiff structure the 8 tower legs have to be connected by diagonal members. The array of diagonals was kept flexible and changeable throughout the design process. A Genetic Algorithm (GA) was used to drive and control this process. The benchmarks to judge the performance of each version were the structure’s self weight and its maximum deflection due to the governing loads. In such a generative process the correlation of one single element with every other element within the structural system is considered simultaneously in every calculation step.


Thus complex load bearing behaviors can evolve. Tubes with varying diameters from 2 to 5.5 m build the main structural elements of this tower. These tubes are dissolved into bundles of hollow circular sections. This allows not only for the usage of standard, easily available steel sections, but keeps wall-thicknesses low resulting in minimized welding-efforts. It also allows dividing these bundles into units, which can be easily transported and lifted. Due to the waved silhouette and – where no function is placed inside – open section of the tubes their aerodynamic and wind loads residence values are strongly reduced compared to those of a closed profile. On the inner side of the bundles the longitudinal members are interconnected by rings and diagonals. They ensure the stability and shear resistance of the tubes.

The great advantages of the bundled tubes are local availability, ease of construction and beneficial air drag, but also their adaptability to each segment’s individual stress. This shows analogies to natural principles like the growth of muscles or tree fibers. The proposed construction can be adjusted to the specific forces at each point of the structure and allows therefore to minimize steel-tonnage and hence the costs. This specialization leads to a high-grade complex system. The bundled tubes can easily be prefabricated on ground.

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Categories: Grasshopper, Mixed use, Park, Rhino, Tower

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