High – rise – Celebrating Metabolism

Eli Aerden

Master Architectuur
2021 — 2022


Bart Hollanders
Sven Verbruggen

Manuel Schnur

High – rise – Celebrating Metabolism


A number of technological advances 100 years ago led to an architecture out of human proportion: bigness. The invention of the elevator gave the ability to build grander, taller and faster. This architecture breaks with the conventional architectural rules. As Rem Koolhaas explains in his theory of bigness, this size of buildings cannot be controlled by a single architectural gesture, or even by any combination of architectural gestures. 

Looking from the perspective of Delirious New York, the research starts with examining the Downtown Athletic Club. The techniques in the skyscraper are crucial, as the metabolism in the skyscraper is the part that is feeding the culture of congestion.

The examination of the metabolism of three iconic skyscrapers reveals the extent of the surface occupied by the techniques, services and circulation. Different attitudes toward metabolism became apparent.

We implied our own vision of metabolism in the design of a skyscraper lobby. The lobby was designed with the underlying idea that this is the crucial element in a high-rise building. By gaining control over the lobby one could design the rest of the high-rise with this basis in mind.

After having designed the lobby where we tested our design strategies, it was time for the real stuff: designing a complete skyscraper. We put our architectural language to the test in two different contexts. On the one hand, our design strategy was tested in an American context. Here our high-rise participated in the Chicago Tribune competition. The grid of Chicago is seen as an excuse to test our design strategies with no restrains of a context. On the other hand, our design strategy was simultaneously tested in a European context. As a case study we took the iconic Boerentoren which was the first high-rise in Europe and which is till this very day an iconic landmark in Antwerp.