is a studio for architecture, planning, and design based in Saint Louis, USA.

Sky Lantern Tower

Taichung, Taiwan

Sky Lantern Tower proposes a new model of observation tower. It lifts passengers 300 meters with a minimum use of material and energy, while extending the Taiwanese tradition of releasing Sky Lanterns to an urban scale.  

Instead of a typical material and energy intensive tower structure to support only an elevator and observation deck, Sky Lantern Tower replaces the elevator and deck with four helium passenger balloons, each capable of carrying 20-30 passengers. These balloons reference the Sky Lanterns, giving the traditional symbol a pragmatic function. Eliminating elevator and deck frees the tower’s structure. It now only needs to support itself and act as a guide for the balloons between the ground and the views of the Taiwan Strait.  Multiple high altitude wind turbines at the apex of the structure provide clean energy to Taichung.

The structure takes its slender form from the structural logic of bamboo. Bamboo, like the Tower, only needs to support itself and resist wind. Its circular section minimizes wind resistance. The members taper from 4 meters in diameter at the base to ½ meter at its apex, 300 meters above ground. These members are constructed of rolled stainless steel plate, like flagpole construction.  The members meet at the top and mid-span to brace itself and further reduce structure.


Program: observation tower, office, exhibition

Client: Taichung City Government

Location: Taichung Gateway Park, Taichung, Taiwan

Status: 2010 Taiwan Tower International Design Competition

Design Architect: Forrest Fulton

3 Responses to “Sky Lantern Tower”

  1. [...] Fulton’s Sky Lantern Tower is futuristic skyscraper that lifts passengers 300 meters high while keeping material and energy [...]

  2. lynn says:

    Helium is a finite resource with applications in the aerospace industry and medicine. The supply may be exhausted by 2020 if we don’t take action soon. Here’s one story:

    http://www.reuters.com/video/2010/09/06/helium-shortage-threatens-mri-future?videoId=152502858

    • Rich says:

      Helium is a finite resource, but will not be exhausted by 2020 more like 2070 at the current rate, but higher prices will lead to increased recycling. The 2011 USGS world helium resources paper isn’t completely accurate about Russia or Australia, and in that report they reference much older documents. The Huguton field and national reserve will be exhausted, but there are huge supplies in Australia, Siberia, Qatar, Algeria, and Wyoming, some of which haven’t even been tapped yet. Industries are recycling more and more. But often it isn’t even worth enough to be economically extracted from the natural gas so it is just vented into the atmosphere.

      In a few years we probably won’t be seeing helium filled balloons (other than the Mylar kind). Helium is used in MRE, cryogenics, welding, gas chromatography, breathing mixtures, lifting devices, superconductors, manufacturing fiber optics, and is being looked at for 4th generation nuclear reactors.

      The real shortage is Helium 3, an important isotope produced as Tritium decays that may hold the secret to fusion energy as well as used in detecting explosives. It is valuable enough that China and Russia are even talking about mining it on the moon.

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