To architect Ma Yansong, principal of MAD, one of the great challenges with rapid urbanization is humanizing the city. “The difficulty with big cities does not lie in skyscrapers or high-rises per se, rather it is the values concealed within those buildings which lead to the loss of our humanity and our sense of spiritual emptiness,” Yansong writes in his book Shanshui City. This ethos guides Yansong’s design for Cloud Corridor, a conceptual tower that’s part of an exhibition at the A+D museum about rethinking residential design in Los Angeles.
Part and parcel to the concept is making sprawl-centric L.A. denser through design. Yansong likens the Cloud Corridor to taking a traditional low-density street grid and rotating it 90 degrees so the blocks extend upward instead of out. The nine towers that rise 50 stories tall are conceived as a vertical village complete with gardens in the sky—attributes that will supposedly introduce vitality and community to skyscrapers. Think of the concept as a souped up SimCity Arcology. Pedestrian bridges link the towers and an undulating park at the base offers more public space.
In addition to density, the exhibition’s prompt invited architects to tackle transit accessibility, a lack of buildable land, and resource scarcity—the key challenges for the future of residential design in the city. To that end, Yansong and his team chose to place the speculative towers in the city’s museum district, an area that’s soon to receive a new Metro station and has a lot of cultural amenities.
MAD describes the design very poetically: “Cloud Corridor defies the singular gesture and of modernist box as the form for residential towers, and instead proposes multiple towers that rise to varying heights, echoing the adjacent mountains. The floor plates are comprised of softly curved geometries, versus static rectilinear geometries,” the firm told Co.Design via email. Because this is an exercise in design thinking more so than a project grounded in reality, the interior configurations haven’t been figured out, apart from the circulation between the towers.
The building’s aesthetics are undeniably gorgeous and a heck of a lot nicer than any high-rise that’s currently in L.A. However, history has shown that the “tower in the park” model is notoriously bad for communities. (Park LaBrea, an master-planned neighborhood based on that philosophy is near Cloud Corridor’s speculative site and its residents are none too pleased, calling it “overpriced projects.”) Will more plants and skybridges make for a better model? The answer is unclear, but considering how housing starved L.A. is, it never hurts to have more ideas thrown into the hat.